NEC Releases Speech Recognition Solution

Tokyo-based NEC has developed speech recognition technologies that enable household electronics to be controlled by voice commands through a combination noise cancellation and speech enhancement technologies.

NEC's latest technologies allow devices to be operated by voice through an interface and microphones that accurately recognize a person's voice. This accuracy is maintained even when users are distant from a device in a noisy environment, where existing technologies have difficulty operating effectively, the company said. As a result, users who are in noisy locations, such as a busy living room or kitchen, can still operate electrical appliances and specialized devices by voice when separated by roughly three feet.

Features of the technologies include:

  • Accurate voice detection using noise cancellation technologies with two microphones. These newly developed technologies enable devices equipped with two microphones to detect voice and background noise signals, then sequentially estimate and remove the noise components, leaving only the voice component behind. The technologies accurately follow and remove background noise as it changes over time, thereby detecting voice signals more accurately than existing noise cancelation technologies. As a result, electrical appliances and devices can be easily operated by voice while users' hands remain free.
  • Effective speech enhancement using models of speech from a quiet environment. Following an initial noise cancellation, speech enhancement is carried out using models of speech from a quiet environment, which clarifies speech signals that continue to carry distortion and leftover noise. As a result, the adjusted speech signals become suitable for speech recognition, and the accuracy of these new technologies becomes greater than the current world standard for speech recognition.

"These innovative technologies can enable car navigation systems to overcome background noise and accurately detect voice commands from the driver of a moving car," Akio Yamada, general manager of information and media processing laboratories at NEC, said in a statement. "Employees of warehouses, manufacturing plants, and retail stores can also benefit from the convenient data input of these new technologies as their hands remain free to focus on other tasks."

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