Smartphone speech recognition can text faster than humans

Smartphone speech recognition can text faster than humans

Smartphone speech recognition softwares can compose text messages up to three times faster and more accurately than humans can type, a new study has found.

Most users find current speech recognition softwares to be frustratingly slow, and it is often inaccurate. However, the new study suggests a different reality.

"Speech recognition is something that is been promised to us for decades, but it has never worked very well," said James Landay, a professor at Stanford University in the US.

"But we were noticing that in the past two to three years, speech recognition was actually improving a lot, benefiting from big data and deep learning to train its neural networks to produce faster, more accurate results," said Landay.

The research team, which included scientists from the University of Washington, devised an experiment that pitted a cloud-based speech recognition software against 32 texters, ages 19 to 32 using the built-in keyboard on a smartphone.

"They grew up texting, so we're putting speech recognition up against people who are really good at this task," Landay said.

The subjects took turns typing or speaking about 100 phrases sourced from a standard library of everyday phrases used in text-based research – phrases such as "physics and chemistry are hard," "have a good weekend" and "go out for some pizza and beer" - while the testing app recorded their times and accuracy rates.

Half the subjects performed the task in English using the QWERTY keyboard; the other half conducted the test in their native Mandarin keyboard.

The results were clear no matter the language. For English, speech recognition was three times faster than typing, and the error rate was 20.4 per cent lower.

In Mandarin Chinese, speech was 2.8 times faster, with an error rate 63.4 per cent lower than typing.

"We knew speech recognition is pretty good, so we expected it to be faster, but we were actually quite surprised to find that it was almost three times faster than typing on a keyboard," said Sherry Ruan, PhD student at Stanford.

The researchers have quantified that speech recognition actually works well, they hope it will encourage engineers to design user interfaces that take better advantage of the technology.

"We should put speech in more applications than just typing an email or text message," Landay said.

"You could imagine an interface where you use speech to start and then it switches to a graphical interface that you can touch and control with your finger," he said.

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