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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 09:21 GMT 10:21 UK
Grunts to control computers
Forget the mouse: Grunting may be more effective
System measures the pitch and duration of sounds
Grunts and sighs could become the way to control computers or to navigate through call centre systems.

Dr Takeo Igarashi, of Brown University in the US, reckons that a system based on simple sounds instead of words would be more efficient than conventional voice recognition software.

He says it would be ideal for skipping through tracks on a CD player or browsing the internet.

So, for example, when you say "move down, ahhhh", a document on the computer screen would scroll down while the sound continues.

By increasing the pitch of your voice, the scrolling speed increases. When you stop speaking, the scrolling ends.

Ahs and umms

Mr Igarashi is developing the system because voice recognition programs often failed to accurately capture words.

"We tried to see what we could do without words," he told New Scientist.

We tried to see what we could do without words

Takeo Igarashi, Brown University
Voice recognition programs work by measuring variations in spoken commands. His system would work by measuring the pitch and duration of grunt-like sounds liked "ah" and "umm".

Dr Igarashi believes a quick "uh oh" could produce an Undo command much faster than having to use a mouse.

He believes it could even be used in the home to control your television. So you would say "volume up, ahhhhhh", and the volume of the TV would rise while the "ahhh" continues.

But it is doubtful whether people working in crowded offices would be willing to grunt away in front of their colleagues. The researcher is due to present his ideas at a computing conference in Orlando, Florida, next month.

Dr Takeo Igarashi from Brown University
"The system moves as long as you are speaking"
See also:

12 Sep 01 | Artificial intelligence
Computer babbles like a baby
27 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Acceptable face of robotics
01 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Robots say it with feeling
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