Whether it’s engaging with human callers using an IVR system or reading written text to assist the visually impaired, we’ve found hundreds of ways to use a computer’s vocal capabilities for the better.
All of these benefits, however, apply pretty much entirely to the human user.
The computer doesn’t care whether you punch a series of keys or say aloud your request. We didn’t create speech recognition to make it easier for the computer to understand what we want to do – we created our IVR systems to make life easier for us.
And for all intents and purposes, voice tech has done exactly that.
Now, though, we’re finding more and more that a computer’s ability to speak is actually making the machine’s life easier, too.
According to Scientific American, a few years back researchers at the University of Toronto developed a robot that can navigate through museums by listening to the sound of its own voice.
Instead of relying on GPS, tracking in the floor or other less reliable navigation methods, this robot listens for the sound of its own voice using a series of installed microphones throughout the building to pinpoint its exact location.
The system gives a location accurate to within a few centimeters, and much like the IVR systems that require no updates to your phone, all of the adjustments for this software are external to the robot.
It works kind of like this.
Microphones placed throughout the museum’s rooms listen for the sound of the robot’s voice, and based on a triangulation method they can pinpoint the robot’s location on a map. The robot follows a set path through the museum, much like a human tour guide, and measures its progress compared to the vocal map.
With the integration of IVR programming in the mechanical tour guide, the robot may even be able to take questions from the public as it moves through the exhibits. Meaning that your next History Museum tour could feel a lot more futuristic than you expected.