Just say the word: More to come for voice recognition technology
ThoughtWorks has developed the HeyOffice app and Smart Mirror to tap into voice recognition technology
Voice recognition technology is everywhere around us, commonly in the form of Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Google's Assistant and Microsoft's Cortana.
A lead consultant at ThoughtWorks, a global technology company, felt that these developments may be just the tip of the iceberg.
Mr Stephan Dowding, 36, told The New Paper: "At this point, for natural language processing (NLP), we are hitting a point where algorithms are hitting accuracy levels reasonably close to actual human accuracy.
"Also with cloud computing becoming popular these days, we can now get access to many vast resources to run these complex programmes."
NLP, a component of artificial intelligence (AI), is the ability of a computer program to understand human speech.
Recognising that NLP has much more to offer, ThoughtWorks has developed two NLP prototypes.
"We can make technology a bit more hidden in the home and have it provide services in a new way." Mr Stephan Dowding, lead consultant at ThoughtWorks
The HeyOffice app is accessible to employees at ThoughtWorks through their smart devices.The app can book meeting rooms, turn lights on and off, retrieve Wi-Fi password for guests and order food.
"We can teach the program by giving it feedback if there is too much or too little food for a meet-up.
"We can also reduce food wastage once it learns the appropriate amount of food to get," said Mr Dowding.
Together with Standard Chartered Bank, ThoughtWorks has also developed a Smart Mirror prototype. It can identify a person through voice and facial recognition technology to perform secure banking transactions.
Mr Dowding said: "We added the screen into the mirror, something that may just be in your hallway.
"We can make technology a bit more hidden in the home and have it provide services in a new way."
Eldercare, proposed Mr Dowding, will be one area in which NLP will be particularly relevant in our ageing society.
"The elderly may not have an emergency button.
"With a voice recognition system, they can just call out for help if they fall at home. The system will alert the next of kin or an emergency service to help them," he said.
With the speed at which information is produced, Mr Dowding said NLP can transform our lives by making it more convenient to access relevant information.
In a connected home, NLP can allow us to perform simple tasks such as controlling the air-conditioner, Mr Dowding said.
"The sun affects the heat in different parts of the house at different times of the day, and we will generally adjust the temperatures accordingly.
"The smart system will learn and predict, making adjustments on our behalf.
"NLP is improving in accuracy too. When a computer knows a word doesn't make sense, it looks for alternatives," said Mr Dowding.
The Briton foresees that the Government's Smart Nation funding will push Singapore into a hub for technology and innovation.
Said Mr Dowding: "NLP will certainly appear more in our lives and become smarter as time goes on.
"We'll see it in ways we don't really think about at the moment."
"While Hollywood television shows and films often paint a negative future when AI and NLP are used widely, Mr Dowding said only the extremes are shown.
"When Hollywood shows us the bad side, it is doing us a social service, helping us understand what the potential dangers are.
"On the flip side, when technology is portrayed positively, it creates excitement... It makes technologists like myself want to produce what they imagine in sci-fi."
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