Headsets: An Essential Ingredient in Speech Recognition
One of the most practical considerations to the end user for making speech technology work is the effectiveness of the headset.
Headsets and microphones can effectively cancel background noise and clarify recognition, which is especially important in noisy environments. New software and computer chips are also debuting in this field.
In the following section we offer a round up of the latest advances in the noise cancellation field: New ANC, ANR Technology from Andrea Electronics
Andrea Electronics recently introduced the QuietWare 1000 PC stereo headset, the first product in a new line of peripherals designed to enhance voice-driven PC and Internet applications.
The new headset combines proprietary Andrea anti-Noise Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) microphone technology with QuietWare Active Noise Reduction headphone technology into a single unit, providing state-of-the-art audio acoustic playback and microphone control for speech recognition, Internet telephony, and all other voice applications.
With the QuietWare ANR earphone technology, audio quality increases greatly through the canceling of low-frequency background noises, which can cause fatigue. QuietWare offers a boost in sound quality for in-flight travelers, industrial professionals, call center operators, and PC users demanding high-performing audio electronics.
Andrea has enjoyed two considerable recent successes. Their microphones are being shipped with the new IBM speech products Simply Speaking and ViaVoice, which have generated tremendous excitement in the industry. Also, Andrea recently signed a licensing agreement with Microsoft to distribute Microsoft NetMeeting 2.0, a powerful Internet application-sharing and integrated voice-conferencing tool, with the Andrea Anti-Noise retail line of active noise cancellation headsets and handsets.
Andrea headsets are also shipping with the Naturally Speaking product from Dragon, giving Andrea a strong position in the continuous speech dictation product market.
Andrea Anti-Noise PC headsets and handsets incorporate active noise cancellation technology. The ANC family includes the dual function, ear-mounted ANC-100 headset and desktop microphone; the monaural ANC-500 headset with on/off mute; and the near-field/farfield ANC 200 headset - significantly improving all voice-computing applications.
For more information, contact Andrea Electronics, 11-40 45th Road, Long Island City, NY 11101, or at their web site http://www.AndreaElectronics.com , or call 800-442-7787.
Emkay, New Division of Knowles, Offers Uniquely Designed Headsets
Knowles Electronics, one of the world's leading manufacturers of transducers, has recently announced the formation of a new division to be known as Emkay Innovative Products. The new division will be responsible for the development of products that are particularly suitable for high growth industries.
One of the first actions taken by the new division was the introduction of a headset microphone that is particularly effective when used with any voice activated PC software.
"The quality of components used in this product makes the headset microphone extremely sensitive. Therefore, voice activated software can better understand what the operator is saying, solving a common problem," said Tim Wickstrom, engineering manager at Emkay.
In addition to enhanced speech technology, this exceptionally lightweight headset microphone is directional - virtually eliminating extraneous noises. This feature allows an individual to verbally direct his or her computer to "open file," "send fax," "start dictation," or any one of many other commands, even in a busy office environment.
The uniquely designed earloop fits over the ear, creating a more comfortable fit. Emkay also offers an easily adjustable headband and a mechanism that allows the boom to flip completely around so the headset can be worn with a preference to either the right or left side.
For more information, contact Emkay Innovative Products, 1151 Maplewood Drive, Itasca, Ill. 60143, or call 630 250-5121.
Liberation from Nortel
The Liberation headset line from Nortel consists of three different microphones: standard, noise-canceling, and ultra noise canceling, each designed to best suit different environments.
The ultra noise canceling option (UNC) facilitates speech recognition by improving sound transmission quality and providing a more intelligible telephone conversation. The UNC option uses the most advanced microphone technology available and reduces or eliminates background noises of computer printers, co-workers activities, and music, which can disturb telephone conversations and speech recognition accuracy.
The Liberation line also includes a standard microphone which features advanced acoustic engineering and a noise canceling (NC) version which reduces most background noise, including the sound of your own breathing.
For more information, contact Nortel at 800 4NORTEL (800 466-7835)
Noise Cancellation Software from Jabra
Jabra has developed a range of signal conditioning software modules with the philosophy of modular design ensuring that the software is easily maintained and updated as well as reusable in other products and platforms.
The Jabra signal conditioning software was created to enhance the performance of the Jabra EarPhone, but it could be used to enhance the audio quality of any headset. Jabra technology cancels background noise when the user is speaking and when the user is not speaking. The technology can be ported to a standard Windows format with an API. Another unique feature of the Jabra technology is that they use only one microphone, where most require two.
For more information, contact Anita Habeich, director of market development at Jabra, at 619 622-9806.
CTS Series from VXI
The CTS series headset systems from VXI are designed for precise, hands-free operation of computer speech recognition systems.
The CTS 10-3 is designed for straight speech recognition, including levels of command, voice navigation, and full dictation with sound card "microphone in" and "speaker out" connections by two standard 3.5 mm plugs. A "bias box" powers the headset microphone and matches the headset to the computers sound card.
The CTS-ST is designed for speech recognition in transmit and stereo sound from multi-media computers in receive. The binaural stereo headset has separate volume controls for the right and left sound channels.
For more information, contact VXI at 603 742-2888.
Free Software from NCTI
Noise Cancellation Technologies Inc. (NCTI) recently announced that a trial version of Clear Speech PC/COM software can be downloaded from the company's web site at www.nct-active.com.
The trial version demonstrates the ability of the software to clean ambient noise from wave files. The length of the wave files for the demonstration is limited to 30 seconds.
Users can purchase the ClearSpeech PC/COM User Kit software for $49.99 by calling 800 237-8478.
Comfort Aries headsets
Comfort Aries headsets from Comfort Telecommunications are equipped with noise canceling microphones, dual mute switches, flexible spring boom mike construction, quick disconnect with built in mute button, rich sound quality and "safety first" hearing protection.
The amplifier features a user friendly universal interface with no dip switch settings, easy slide volume control, automatic gain control, mute switch, and mute light.
Comfort Telecommunications offers the unit with a two year unconditional warranty, backed by a 24 to 48 hour turnaround time on any inoperative headset.
For more information, contact Comfort Telecommunications, 1407 SE 47th Terrace, Cape Coral Fl 33904, or call 941 945-3224, or at http://www.comfortel.com .
Shure Introduces New Microphones
The communication products division of Shure Brothers Inc. recently announced their new line of computer microphone products. Shure has long been a leading supplier of headworn microphones to voice recognition companies and is now introducing a complete line of wired and wireless headworn microphones.
The HW505 is a unidirectional electric condenser headworn microphone designed for use especially with Creative Labs Sound Blaster or similar compatible sound cards.
The VR230D is an over-the-head unidirectional dynamic headworn microphone with dual foam ear cushions for wearing comfort, and uses the same high quality microphone cartridges found in Shure microphones bundled with popular speech recognition software.
The TCHS computer wireless system includes a body pack transmitter, desk top receiver, and a HW501 style headworn microphone. A six foot interface cable is provided for interfacing with the receiver unit to the sound card input.
For more information, visit the Shure web site at www.shure.com , or contact the communications products division at 847 866-2200.
Headset Switcher from Plantronics
Plantronics, Inc., recently released the Headset Switcher adapter, an integrated computer and telephone headset adapter. With the Switcher, Plantronics headset users can easily change from making a telephone call to listening to or recording computer voice annotations, performing speech recognition applications, listening to music on the computer, or any number of other computer and audio applications.
The product has a suggested retail price of $149.95 and will be distributed through a variety of national and regional distributors, catalogers, and specialty headset distributors.
For more information, contact Plantronics, CMS Division, 345 Encinal Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, or call 408 458-7730.
VLC Voice Link from VCI
The VLC Voice Link(tm) system instantly converts any standard headset or microphone into a wireless, two way voice communication system for your computer and telephony based applications such as command and control, dictation and voice activated data entry.
The VLC system is ideal for speech recognition, text to speech and multimedia applications. It transforms your voice activated data entry and computer command and control functions by enabling you to move freely up to 150 feet away from your computer in any operating environment, without replacing your existing headset.
Weighing just 6.8 oz. and powered by a 9 volt battery, the beltpack transceiver accepts any standard 1/8" or 1/4" microphone or 1/8" headset. The VLC base station connects directly to any computer sound card or speech recognition board. It is a full duplex communication system utilizing the VHF band between 169 MHz and 216 MHz for signal reception and 912 MHz to 914 MHz for signal transmission.
Fully featured, the VLC beltpack tranceiver features LED indicators, independent on/off switches for microphone and headphone, a microphone mute switch, and volume and tuning adjustments for the headphone.
The list price for the VLC System is $595 without the headset and $675 with the headset.
For more information, contact Susan Endres at Voice Communication Interface Corp., PO Box 29, Wilton, CT 06897, or call 203 393-3585, or fax 203-775-3204.
Gentex Corporation at SpeechTEK '97
Gentex manufactures high quality electret microphones which are ideal for use in speech recognition. These microphones have been proven to increase accuracy in many speech recognition applications.
March Smith, General Manager of Gentex will answer questions at 800-258-3554 or see him at booth 322 at SpeechTEK.