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The ability to operate computers using conversational speech has been popularized in science fiction, and it offers to provide powerful and economical tools for a number of applications, including:

  • Preventing repetitive use syndrome
  • Air traffic control training
  • Hands-busy environments (e.g., cockpits, factory floors, laboratories, and operating rooms)
  • Foreign language instruction

Although speech recognition research began nearly 50 years ago at Bell Labs, state-of-the-art systems have high computational demands, low recognition accuracies under ideal conditions, and very poor performance in noisy or stressful real-world environments. Tanner's speech research has targeted both computational efficiency and robustness with respect to background noise and speaker variability.

The Tanner Approach

Tanner Labs has explored a variety of techniques for tackling these problems. We have designed custom hardware, including several analog ICs as well as a reconfigurable computer, to provide compact systems that perform significantly faster than a software implementation. (For example, as part of our "AIM in hardware" project, we developed a reconfigurable computer that included a custom analog IC as a component.)

To achieve high performance in realistic environments, we have studied and refined state-of-the-art algorithms, both traditional techniques and biologically inspired neural networks and cochlear models. Moreover, we have demonstrated that our innovative architecture and training system produce an isolated-word recognizer that is more robust to noise and speaker variability than any commercially available product. We are currently extending this technology to recognize continuous speech. Another approach that we are currently developing is an audiovisual recognizer that uses lip reading to recognize speech.


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