Speech recognition

You may be annoyed or amused by Siri, but get used to it; it may well be at the forefront of user interfaces for mobile devices. A new report from Tractica predicts that speech recognition will be in 82% of mobile electronic devices by 2020, nearly doubling its penetration of 45% in 2014. This will expand the use of “aural interface technologies” for applications such as virtual digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana.

Device interfaces that respond to the spoken word are a natural for wearable devices of all sorts, especially those for Health Tech applications. The devices tend to be small but complex; traditional physical button interfaces are too limiting. If the device has a display screen, touch screens are an option, but the small screen size poses limitations of its own. Manufacturers are experimenting with other technologies, including 3D gestures, eye tracking, and haptics (force feedback), but Tractica’s analysts forecast that these will lag far behind speech recognition. Why is speech recognition gaining ground so quickly? According to the report, one reason is that the technology is reasonably mature. Furthermore, the costs for processing power, memory, storage, and high quality microphones and speakers have dropped so far that it is easy for manufacturers to include the functions. There is also the potential that the same system that performs speech recognition will also do voice recognition to identify specific individuals. This adds a security function on top of convenience.

For those of us who grew up watching the Star Trek crew (among others) barking commands to the Enterprise’s ship-wide computer system, it seems natural that we should be able to talk to our machines. Thanks to devices like the Amazon Echo and the Cortana feature in Windows 10 for desktop computers, we will come to expect — and rely on — our electronic devices to be able to converse with us, and respond to our spoken requests. Wearable Health Tech devices and their related systems will benefit from a robust and convenient interface like this.