Voice Joins Gaming Battle

When the new "Delta Force—Black Hawk Down: Team Sabre" game came out for the PlayStation 2 home video game market this week, player speech recognition was among its latest features. The game, developed for PS2 by NovaLogic, features the VoiceIn Game Edition speech technology from Fonix Speech, based in Salt Lake City, to enhance the player experience. It is the second NovaLogic title to ship with Fonix's voice technology.

The in-game voice recognition component allows players of the military battlefield simulation game to dictate commands to other members of their squads. Voice recognition is built into the game's programming and is not linked to the speech patterns of any one person in particular.

"It's user-independent," explains Tim Hong, vice president of games and mobile technology at Fonix. "It resides in the game, not the PlayStation system, so a new player can use the same software and his voice will work too. And there's no voice training of the system required."

Speech recognition is fast becoming a new standard in home video games, Hong says, who notes that about 40 games for the Playstation, Xbox and PC use the technology now. "You're starting to see it in a lot of military simulation games, he says. "It's just something players have come to expect."

In addition to the "Black Hawk Down" series, Fonix' VoiceIn technology also can be found in the "Tom Clancy: Rainbow Six" and "Tom Clancy: Ghost Recon" series, "SWAT: Global Strike Team," "NFL Head Coach," and even a children's reading game called "Jump Start Reading with Karaoke." Another game, based on the NASCAR auto racing circuit, allows the players driving the racecars to talk to members of their pit crews.

Other companies are also starting to use speech recognition within their games. Last year, Nintendo and Sony, for example, began incorporating Nuance's Vocon Games Speech SDK into some of their more popular games, including the latest Super Mario game, "Mario Party 6," for the Nintendo Game Cube.

"The reason a lot of games are starting to use this is because there is not a lot of system memory involved," Hong adds. The special programming requires just 300 kilobytes of memory, or less than 9 percent of a system's processing power.

"When voice recognition is used in a game, it definitely makes it more immersive and realistic for the player. It makes you feel like you are actually a character in the game. You're not just using a game controller, but you are directly involved," Hong says. That is the same reason that is driving NovaLogic to add voice recognition to its games. The technology allows the game manufacturer to "immerse players in a multi-sensory experience with real-time, adrenaline-pumping action," says Lee Milligan, NovaLogic's president.

By using VoiceIn in its games, NovaLogic "uses next-generation technologies to up the ante with their new games," Hong concludes. "I'm really excited about how voice is expanding into games."

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