Monday, February 04, 2013

Silent Speech as a Keyboard Alternative

My list of desired cell phone features includes a large screen, a world phone, and a physical keyboard. My current phone, the Samsung Note II, provides the first two. Its virtual keyboard is usable, but much less usable than an ordinary keyboard, or even the tiny keyboard on my old Psion PDA. It is possible that I could change that by training myself in Swype or something similar, but so far I have not done so.

The phone also has an alternative form of text entry—speech to text. It is surprisingly good but still, in my experience, much slower than typing. Possibly that could change with improved software and more practice using it, but there remains a more intractable problem. Text entry to the phone often happens in the presence of other people who would be likely to find my speaking to my phone distracting.

Which suggests an interesting possibility. Many people, mostly those who view cell phones primarily as phones rather than primarily as pocket computer/internet devices, access their phone through a bluetooth earpiece. Perhaps something similar could be created that would pick up words spoken softly enough to be inaudible from a few feet away and use them as the input for speech to text. That could, in principle, provide a form of text input faster and easier than typing—without requiring the additional weight and thickness of a physical keyboard.


Aretae said...


I had exactly the same set of requirements, and the same solution (Samsung Note 2).

Swype solved my problems. I prefer swipe now to the physical keyboard of my last phone.

justin said...

I've often wondered if a mechanical voice box could be used to silently speak to your phone.

EH said...

If you havnt yet, you should try swype on a friends phone for a bit. Ive always hated typing on phones, pphysicaly keyboard or otherwise, but I starting loving swipe really quickly

Robert Easton said...

Similarly to other commenters I'm using Swype on a galaxy note. In fact that's what I'm typing this with. It's not as fast as a full size physical keyboard but if we're comparing to a pocket sized two thumb keyboard I think it wins. I have relatively large hands though so I guess most people can't do this one handed. If a better voice to text option was available I certainly wouldn't complain (since this is still slower than speaking).

Anonymous said...

David, Lip reading is a very common practice. The implication is that one can speak, i.e. do all of the things you do when speaking, without pushing the air through, thus creating a visual communication with no auditory content. So why can't a computer be taught to lip read, and then it's user be taught to speak without using airflow?

- Scott

Simon Andersson said...

There's more ambiguity in lip reading than in speech...

According to Wikipedia:

It has been estimated that only 30% to 40% of sounds in the English language are distinguishable from sight alone.

Thus, for example, the phrase "where there's life, there's hope" looks identical to "where's the lavender soap" in most English dialects.

So we will have good speech recognition before we have automatic lip reading.

Sevesteen said...

I've seen claims that typing uses a different part of the brain than composing so the tasks can be paralleled. Speaking uses the same part of the brain as composing making parallel processing difficult--and context switching is relatively inefficient.

Roland Dobbins said...

Turning on haptic vibration for the on-screen keyboard helps a lot. I hate Swype, but use Smart Keyboard and like it a lot.

As far as speech-to-text or speech commands go, you can do this via a Bluetooth headset, as you allude to with regards to telephone conversations. Any voice command your phone can process can be issued via the headset.