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Computers find male voices 'harder to recognise'

Mouth
Scientists found computers failed to understand men's speech

Researchers have discovered voice recognition computers find men harder to understand than women.

Edinburgh University scientists found computers failed to understand men's speech because they make "umm" and "err" sounds more frequently.

Researchers recorded phone calls and studied how much of conversations a recognition system could understand.

They pinpointed common recognition errors in an effort to improve accuracy of automated ticket booking lines.

The research found computers made mistakes with words which sound similar and can occur in similar contexts, such as "I saw him" or "I saw them".

Voices vary from one person to the next and it is challenging to design a computer system that can understand lots of different voices
Dr Sharon Goldwater
Edinburgh University

Variations in pitch, tone and speed can also cause the system to misunderstand voices.

Scientists said it was hard to design a computer that could understand so many different kinds of voices but this research should help improve it.

The study, a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and Stanford University in the US, was published in the journal Speech Communication.

It was sponsored by the Edinburgh-Stanford Link and the US Office of Naval Research.

Dr Sharon Goldwater, of Edinburgh University's school of informatics, who led the research, said: "Voices vary from one person to the next and it is challenging to design a computer system that can understand lots of different voices.

"We hope that by closely studying how people speak and how machines process this, we can help create better systems that will be simple and efficient for people to use."



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