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Speech recognition (in many contexts also known as automatic speech recognition, computer speech recognition or erroneously as voice recognition) is the process of converting a speech signal to a sequence of words in the form of digital data, by means of an algorithm implemented as a computer program.
Speech recognition applications that have emerged over the last few is years include voice dialing (e.g., "Call home"), call routing (e.g., "I would like to make a collect call"), domotic appliance control and content-based spoken audio search (e.g. find a podcast where particular words were spoken), simple data entry (e.g., entering a credit card number), preparation of structured documents (e.g., a radiology report), speech-to-text processing (text for OpenDocument, word processors, emails...); in the cockpit of some military fast jets (where it is generally referred to as Direct Voice Input - DVI -).
Voice recognition, or better, speaker recognition is a related process that attempts to identify the person speaking, as opposed to what is being said.
One of the most notable domains for the commercial application of speech recognition in the United States has been health care and in particular the work of the medical transcriptionist (MT). According to industry experts, at its inception, speech recognition (SR) was sold as a way to completely eliminate transcription rather than make the transcription process more efficient, hence it was not accepted. It was also the case that SR at that time was often technically deficient. Additionally, to be used effectively, it changes to the ways physicians worked and documented clinical encounters, which many if not all were reluctant to do. The biggest limitation to speech recognition automating transcription, however, is seen as the software. The nature of narrative dictation is highly interpretive and often requires judgment that may be provided by a real human but not by an automated system. Another limitation has been the extensive amount of time required by the user and/or system provider to train the software.
A useful distinction in ASR is often made between "artificial syntax systems" which are usually domain specific and "natural language processing" which are usually language specific. Each of these types of application present their own particular goals and challenges.
In the health care domain, even in the wake of improving speech recognition technologies, medical transcriptionists (MTs) have not yet become obsolete. Many experts in the field anticipate that with increased use of speech recognition technology, the services provided may be redistributed rather than replaced. Speech recognition has not yet made the skills of MTs obsolete.
Speech recognition can be implemented in front-end or back-end of the medical documentation process.
Front-End SR is where the provider dictates into a speech-recognition engine, the recognized words are displayed right after they are spoken, and the dictator is responsible for editing and signing off on the document. It never goes through an MT/editor.
Back-End SR or Deferred SR is where the provider dictates into a digital dictation system, and the voice is routed through a speech-recognition machine and the recognized draft document is routed along with the original voice file to the MT/editor, who edits the draft and finalizes the report. Deferred SR is being widely used in the industry currently.
Many Emergency Medical Response (EMR) applications can be more effective and may be preformed more easily when deployed in conjunction with a speech-recognition engine. Searches, queries, and form filling may all be faster to perform by voice than by using a keyboard.
High-Performance Fighter Aircraft
Substantial efforts have been devoted in the last decade to the test and evaluation of speech recognition in fighter aircraft. Of particular note are the U.S. program in speech recognition for the Advanced Fighter Technology Integration (AFTI)/F-16 aircraft, the program in France on installing speech recognition systems on Mirage aircraft, and programs in the U.K. dealing with a variety of aircraft platforms. In these programs, speech recognizers have been operated successfully in fighter aircraft with applications including: setting radio frequencies, commanding an autopilot system, setting steer-point coordinates and weapons release parameters, and controlling flight displays. Generally, only very limited, constrained vocabularies have been used successfully, and a major effort has been devoted to integration of the speech recognizer with the avionics system.
Some important conclusions from the work are as follows: 1. Speech recognition has definite potential for reducing pilot workload, but this potential was not realized consistently. 2. Achievement of very high recognition accuracy (95% or more) was the most critical factor for making the speech recognition system useful - with lower recognition rates, pilots would not use the system. 3. More natural vocabulary and grammar, and shorter training times would be useful, but only if very high recognition rates could be maintained.
Laboratory research in robust speech recognition for military environments has produced promising results which, if extendable to the cockpit, should improve the utility of speech recognition in high-performance aircraft.
Working with Swedish pilots flying in the JAS-39 Gripen cockpit, Englund (2004) found recognition deteriorated with increasing G-loads. It was also concluded that adaptation greatly improved the results in all cases and introducing models for breathing was shown to improve recognition scores significantly. Contrary to what might be expected, no effects of the broken English of the speakers were found. It was evident that spontaneous speech caused problems for the recognizer, as could be expected. A restricted vocabulary, and above all, a proper syntax, could thus be expected to improve recognition accuracy substantially. 
The problems of achieving high recognition accuracy under stress and noise pertain strongly to the helicopter environment as well as to the fighter environment. The acoustic noise problem is actually more severe in the helicopter environment, not only because of the high noise levels but also because the helicopter pilot generally does not wear a facemask, which would reduce acoustic noise in the microphone. Substantial test and evaluation programs have been carried out in the post decade in speech recognition systems applications in helicopters, notably by the U.S. Army Avionics Research and Development Activity (AVRADA) and by the Royal Aerospace Establishment (RAE in the UK. Work in France has included speech recognition n the Puma helicopter. There has also been mush useful work in Canada. Results have been encouraging, and voice applications have included: control of communication radios; setting of navigation systems; and control of an automated target handover system.
As in fighter applications, the overriding issue for voice in helicopters is the impact on pilot effectiveness. Encouraging results are reported for the AVRADA tests, although these represent only a feasibility demonstration in a test environment. Much remains to be done both in speech recognition and in overall speech recognition technology, in order to consistently achieve performance improvements in operational settings.
Battle management command centres generally require rapid access to and control of large, rapidly changing information databases. Commanders and system operators need to query these databases as conveniently as possible, in an eyes-busy environment where much of the information is presented in a display format. Human machine interaction by voice has the potential to be very useful in these environments. A number of efforts have been undertaken to interface commercially available isolated-word recognizers into battle management environments. In one feasibility study, speech recognition equipment was tested in conjunction with an integrated information display for naval battle management applications. Users were very optimistic about the potential of the system, although capabilities were limited.
Speech understanding programs sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the U.S. has focussed on this problem of natural speech interface.. Speech recognition efforts have focussed on a database of continuous speech recognition (CSR), large-vocabulary speech which is designed to be representative of the naval resource management task. Significant advances in the state-of-the-art in CSR have been achieved, and current efforts are focussed on integrating speech recognition and natural language processing to allow spoken language interaction with a naval resource management system.
Training Air Traffic Controllers
Training for military (or civilian) air traffic controllers (ATC) represents an excellent application for speech recognition systems. Many ATC training systems currently require a person to act as a "pseudo-pilot", engaging in a voice dialog with the trainee controller, which simulates the dialog which the controller would have to conduct with pilots in a real ATC situation. Speech recognition and synthesis techniques offer the potential to eliminate the need for a person to act as pseudo-pilot, thus reducing training and support personnel. Air controller tasks are also characterized by highly structured speech as the primary output of the controller, hence reducing the difficulty of the speech recognition task.
The U.S. Naval Training Equipment Center has sponsored a number of developments of prototype ATC trainers using speech recognition. Generally, the recognition accuracy falls short of providing graceful interaction between the trainee and the system. However, the prototype training systems have demonstrated a significant potential for voice interaction in these systems, and in other training applications. The U.S. Navy has sponsored a large-scale effort in ATC training systems, where a commercial speech recognition unit was integrated with a complex training system including displays and scenario creation. Although the recognizer was constrained in vocabulary, one of the goals of the training programs was to teach the controllers to speak in a constrained language, using specific vocabulary specifically designed for the ATC task. Research in France has focussed on the application of speech recognition in ATC training systems, directed at issues both in speech recognition and in application of task-domain grammar constraints. 
Telephony and other domains
ASR in the field of telephony is now commonplace and in the field of computer gaming and simulation is becoming more widespread. Despite the high level of integration with word processing in general personal computing, however, ASR in the field of document production has not seen the expected increases in use.
Performance of speech recognition systems
The performance of speech recognition systems is usually specified in terms of accuracy and speed. Accuracy may be measured in terms of Performance Accuracy which is usually rated with word error rate, whereas speed is measured with the real time factor. Other measures of accuracy include Single Word Error Rate (SWER) and Command Success Rate (CSR).
Most speech recognition users would tend to agree that dictation machines can achieve very high performance in controlled conditions. There is some confusion, however, over the interchangeability of the terms "speech recognition" and "dictation".
Commercially available speaker-dependent dictation systems usually require only a short period of training (sometimes also called `enrollment') and may successfully capture continuous speech with a large vocabulary at normal pace with a very high accuracy. Most commercial companies claim that recognition software can achieve between 98% to 99% accuracy if operated under optimal conditions. `Optimal conditions' usually assume that users:
- have speech characteristics which match the training data,
- can achieve proper speaker adaptation, and
- work in a clean noise environment (e.g. quiet office or laboratory space).
This explains why some users, especially those whose speech is heavily accented, might achieve recognition rates much lower than expected. Speech recognition in video has become a popular search technology used by several video search companies.
Limited vocabulary systems, requiring no training, can recognize a small number of words (for instance, the ten digits) as spoken by most speakers. Such systems are popular for routing incoming phone calls to their destinations in large organizations.
Both acoustic modeling and language modeling are important parts of modern statistically-based speech recognition algorithms. Hidden Markov Models (HMM) are widely used in many systems. Language modeling has many other applications such as smart keyboard and document classification
Carnegie Mellon University has made much progress in increasing the speed of speech chips by using ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) and reconfigurable chips called FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays). 
Hidden Markov model (HMM)-based speech recognition
Modern general-purpose speech recognition systems are generally based on HMMs. These are statistical models which output a sequence of symbols or quantities. One possible reason why HMMs are used in speech recognition is that a speech signal could be viewed as a piecewise stationary signal or a short-time stationary signal. That is, one could assume in a short-time in the range of 10 milliseconds, speech could be approximated as a stationary process. Speech could thus be thought of as a Markov model for many stochastic processes.
Another reason why HMMs are popular is because they can be trained automatically and are simple and computationally feasible to use. In speech recognition, the hidden Markov model would output a sequence of n-dimensional real-valued vectors (with n being a small integer, such as 10), outputting one of these every 10 milliseconds. The vectors would consist of cepstral coefficients, which are obtained by taking a Fourier transform of a short time window of speech and decorrelating the spectrum using a cosine transform, then taking the first (most significant) coefficients. The hidden Markov model will tend to have in each state a statistical distribution that is a mixture of diagonal covariance Gaussians which will give a likelihood for each observed vector. Each word, or (for more general speech recognition systems), each phoneme, will have a different output distribution; a hidden Markov model for a sequence of words or phonemes is made by concatenating the individual trained hidden Markov models for the separate words and phonemes.
Described above are the core elements of the most common, HMM-based approach to speech recognition. Modern speech recognition systems use various combinations of a number of standard techniques in order to improve results over the basic approach described above. A typical large-vocabulary system would need context dependency for the phonemes (so phonemes with different left and right context have different realizations as HMM states); it would use cepstral normalization to normalize for different speaker and recording conditions; for further speaker normalization it might use vocal tract length normalization (VTLN) for male-female normalization and maximum likelihood linear regression (MLLR) for more general speaker adaptation. The features would have so-called delta and delta-delta coefficients to capture speech dynamics and in addition might use heteroscedastic linear discriminant analysis (HLDA); or might skip the delta and delta-delta coefficients and use splicing and an LDA-based projection followed perhaps by heteroscedastic linear discriminant analysis or a global semitied covariance transform (also known as maximum likelihood linear transform, or MLLT). Many systems use so-called discriminative training techniques which dispense with a purely statistical approach to HMM parameter estimation and instead optimize some classification-related measure of the training data. Examples are maximum mutual information (MMI), minimum classification error (MCE) and minimum phone error (MPE). Sometimes they use a bivariant antidiscriminant Markov redundant inclusive group-oriented hidden computable commutative chain regression model in order to inductively forecast the semi-ring linear precomputed disparate computational models.
Decoding of the speech (the term for what happens when the system is presented with a new utterance and must compute the most likely source sentence) would probably use the Viterbi algorithm to find the best path, and here there is a choice between dynamically creating a combination hidden Markov model which includes both the acoustic and language model information, or combining it statically beforehand (the finite state transducer, or FST, approach).
Dynamic time warping (DTW)-based speech recognition
- Main article: Dynamic time warping
Dynamic time warping is an approach that was historically used for speech recognition but has now largely been displaced by the more successful HMM-based approach. Dynamic time warping is an algorithm for measuring similarity between two sequences which may vary in time or speed. For instance, similarities in walking patterns would be detected, even if in one video the person was walking slowly and if in another they were walking more quickly, or even if there were accelerations and decelerations during the course of one observation. DTW has been applied to video, audio, and graphics -- indeed, any data which can be turned into a linear representation can be analyzed with DTW.
A well known application has been automatic speech recognition, to cope with different speaking speeds. In general, it is a method that allows a computer to find an optimal match between two given sequences (e.g. time series) with certain restrictions, i.e. the sequences are "warped" non-linearly to match each other. This sequence alignment method is often used in the context of hidden Markov models.
For further information
Popular speech recognition conferences held each year or two include ICASSP, Eurospeech/ICSLP (now named Interspeech) and the IEEE ASRU. Conferences in the field of Natural Language Processing, such as ACL, NAACL, EMNLP, and HLT, are beginning to include papers on speech processing. Important journals include the IEEE Transactions on Speech and Audio Processing (now named IEEE Transactions on Audio, Speech and Language Processing), Computer Speech and Language, and Speech Communication. Books like "Fundamentals of Speech Recognition" by Lawrence Rabiner can be useful to acquire basic knowledge but may not be fully up to date (1993). Another good source can be "Statistical Methods for Speech Recognition" by Frederick Jelinek which is a more up to date book (1998). Even more up to date is "Computer Speech", by Manfred R. Schroeder, second edition published in 2004. A good insight into the techniques used in the best modern systems can be gained by paying attention to government sponsored competitions such as those organised by DARPA (the largest speech recognition-related project ongoing as of 2007 is the GALE project, which involves both speech recognition and translation components).
In terms of freely available resources, the HTK book (and the accompanying HTK toolkit) is one place to start to both learn about speech recognition and to start experimenting. Another such resource is Carnegie Mellon University's SPHINX toolkit. The AT&T libraries FSM Library, GRM library, and DCD library are also general software libraries for large-vocabulary speech recognition.
A useful review of the area of robustness in ASR is provided by Junqua and Haton (1995).
Applications of speech recognition
- Automatic translation
- Automotive speech recognition (e.g., Ford Sync)
- Court reporting (Realtime Voice Writing)
- Speech Biometric Recognition
- Hands-free computing: voice command recognition computer user interface
- Home automation
- Cockpit (aviation) (also termed Direct Voice Input)
- Interactive voice response
- Medical transcription
- Mobile telephony, including mobile email.
- Pronunciation evaluation in computer-aided language learning applications
- Transcription (digital speech-to-text).
- Audio mining
- Audio visual speech recognition
- Artificial intelligence
- Expert systems
- Keyword spotting
- List of speech recognition projects
- Speech Analytics
- Automatic speaker identification
- Speech corpus
- Speech perception
- Speech processing
- Speech synthesis
- Speech verification
- Windows Speech Recognition
- Word error rate
- “Robustness in Automatic Speech Recognition - Fundamentals and Applications, (1995) by Junqua, J-C and Haton, J-P, Kluwer Academic Publishers.”
- ↑ http://www.speech.kth.se/prod/publications/files/1664.pdf
- ↑ http://www.aclweb.org/anthology-new/H/H90/H90-1103.pdf
- ↑ includeonly>Dennis van der Heijden. "Computer Chips to Enhance Speech Recognition", Axistive.com, 2003-10-06.
References & Bibliography
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