More and more inanimate objects are being added to the list of devices that we interact with and every year we are this much closer to having a fully responsive smart home. Integrating voice recognition in the different devices we use is a step forward that will transform our homes – and our lives – even further.


Why voice recognition
The days of talking to unresponsive gadgets will soon be a thing of the past if Wit.ai has its way. The Palo Alto-based startup is offering a way to get devices to actually respond to your voice, they are calling it a Natural Language for the Internet of Things. This is a feature that’s particularly useful for devices that have limited or no displays as well as for the times when your hands are going to be full, such as when you’re driving.

Wit.ai wants to enable software developers and hardware makers to include customized voice controls in a wide range of devices, from wearables to drones.

Voice recognition technology that always learns from massive amounts of collected data used to be the reserve of tech giants like Google and Apple, but Wit.ai aims to change that. The company is opening up access to its easy-to-use, constantly learning natural language service for free to developers that agree to share their data with the rest of the community. An ever-growing amount of data will result in improved accuracy, benefitting other developers and, eventually, all of us consumers.

Challenges
There are many challenges that Wit.ai needs to face but that’s common with developing systems. Their service relies on the cloud so the response time isn’t as fast as it could be. If you’re disconnected from the Internet, you can’t use the service at all. As of this writing, Wit.ai can recognize bits of French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and German but it still works best in English. Multiple language support will improve, however, as more data is added, and developers will soon be allowed to download the voice interactions they’ve built online so an Internet connection won’t always be needed.

14 Comments
  1. What comes to mind is iRobot, as it is very important to keep up with the times and move forward, are we depending too much on machines? Voice recognition is a fast moving implementation that almost all smart phones have now. I use it regularly. This article is extremely informative and I hope the challenges stated are soon overcome. Although there are electronics that will translate other languages, so I don’t why why that can’t be integrated into the voice recognition forum.

    • We can’t depend on machines too much 🙂 The future is automation my friend. Ideally machines would do all the heavy job for mankind, eradicating the idea of the exploited man.

      Robotics can bring an “age of prosperity” like never seen on earth.

  2. So, let me get this straight: does that mean that Google and Microsoft could “change” the existing “vocal part” of their virtual assistants/helpers, Google Search with “OK Google” and Cortana, to use THIS technology instead? And, if yes, what would be the advantage to what they already have?

    Or does it offer similar services / technology to others who’d like to license it?

    Nothing to do with my question, but I feel I should also add, since I’m Greek, that their support for our language up to now is almost non-existant. A “reversed” part of tech, the ability to INPUT data with voice (voice recognition, voice typing) is supported for Greek only from Dragon with its Naturaly Speaking line of products and, on mobile, through Swype with Dragon Naturally Speaking (yeah, that’s its name, it licenses its tech or something).

    I mention this to show the disconnect between english-speaking people and others, that are waaaay behind as far as tech support and features go. If we have voice typing for the last 3-4 years in our smartphones, but my primary language is yet to be supported, I wouldn’t expect more advanced tech, like what you mention, to support it earlier.

    At least, I know (some) English, so I’m not “totally out” 🙂

  3. This is bound to happen with the rate at which technology is moving. Moreover, it is not uncommon to see a phone with speech recognition. Although, some are more capable than others.

    Back to the topic, with internet being the communication point, I think there is going to be a problem. For one, network signals vary from one place to another, and that would affect the response time as suggested above.

    Also, internet in some countries is just too expensive that it would be a no-brainer to use it on this kind of technology, especially if the speech recognition isn’t really necessary.

    I believe this technology will be useful for robots, and other technologies alike. Meanwhile, a lot of people will embrace this not because it’s useful, but because it’s cool.

  4. I am so excited about these innovations that are being integrated into our everyday lives. Call me crazy, but every time we make advancements like this it causes me to think of how we are getting a step closer to the future that I’ve seen portrayed in movies. That fiction is turning into a reality and I am looking forward to it!

  5. I think voice control is still in its infancy, but in just a few years the technology is going to be super advanced. Things like Siri or Cortana are quite accurate so far, and video game consoles now are implementing voice commands. We’re getting closer to the world seen within sci-fi films, which is pretty cool.

  6. I’ve noticed a pretty big improvement in voice recognition technology over the course of a few years. Before these programs would make mistakes even in the best conditions, but it seems that Google Now can hear your request through all the noise, even if you distort your voice a big. Quite interesting.

    • I’ve noticed that Google Now doesn’t really work as well for me. In very noisy areas, I can barely get it to activate, let alone even search or say a voice command. Perhaps it’s just my phone, but with two noise cancelling mics, it’s hard to say whether or not it’s my device or Google Now.

  7. I’ve honestly loved the idea of voice recognition. Just being able to command using your voice, anywhere really. If things like Tasker and Pushbullet had better integration with Google Now, it’d be pretty cool to say things like “Push this webpage to my computer” or “Turn on my desktop at home.” I’d like to build some multiplatform program for this, but I honestly cannot think of how to really do it…

  8. We are giving to much up to computers already. I think we really need to scale back on computer use as it is. The teenagers at fast food restaurants already have a hard time calculating your change without the computer telling them what to give you. I went to the store the other day and the computers were down, they wouldn’t check anyone out because they didn’t know how to calculate change for people. Anytime there are computer problems everything shuts down. I’m not completely against computers and technology, I just think our society should still be able to use their brains without them. I see a lot of room for error with voice controlled items, not everyone has an accent that is easily understood.

  9. Looking back, the voice control features are what makes current computer programs appear to be more personal. Back when we were still only using the IBM and IBM PCjr, we had to read up entire book of more than 200 pages to learn to use the computer. It didn’t have any voice control or voice recognition features. And many of the computer programs being used right now actually don’t have that privilege. Other than translation and language processing programs, I still find voice interactions with my gadgets to be rare.

  10. I am so impressed at the advancement of voice recognition technology in today’s society! There has been a major improvement and it is awesome as I think it is a very good thing to focus our time and money on.

  11. Oh, this is so fun! I like this project and I would very much love to be a part of it. It says so much with just so little information. I’m confident that projects of these types will pave the way towards the future we want to have. I’m holding on to the idea of a connected society that has the power to casually transform the way we interact.

  12. Voice recognition is one of the technologies that has the most potential right now. I’m really looking forward to seeing what else is done to make use to it, I’m actually glad to hear they’re working on it 🙂 Hopefully we see more advances in the next few years!

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