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A voice command device (VCD) is a device controlled by means of the human voice. By removing the need to use buttons, dials and switches, consumers can easily operate appliances with their hands full or while doing other tasks. Some of the first examples of VCDs can be found in home appliances with washing machines that allow consumers to operate washing controls through vocal commands and mobile phones with voice-activated dialing.
Newer VCDs are speaker-independent, so they can respond to multiple voices, regardless of accent or dialectal influences. They are also capable of responding to several commands at once, separating vocal messages, and providing appropriate feedback, accurately imitating a natural conversation. They can understand around 50 different commands and retain up to 2 minutes of vocal messages. VCDs can be found in computer operating systems, commercial software for computers, mobile phones, cars, call centers, and internet search engines such as Google.
In 2007, a CNN business article reported that voice command was over a billion dollar industry and that companies like Google and Apple were trying to create speech recognition features. It has been years since the article was published, and since then the world has witnessed a variety of voice command devices. In addition, Google created a speech recognition engine called Pico TTS and Apple has released Siri. Voice command devices are becoming more widely available, and innovative ways for using the human voice are always being created. For example, Business Week suggests that the future remote controller is going to be the human voice. Currently Xbox Live allows such features and Jobs hinted at such a feature on the new Apple TV.
Two Microsoft operating systems, Windows 7 and Windows Vista, provide speech recognition capabilities. Microsoft integrated voice commands into their operating systems to provide a mechanism for people who want to limit their use of the mouse and keyboard, but still want to maintain or increase their overall productivity.
With Windows Vista voice control, a user may dictate documents and emails in mainstream applications, start and switch between applications, control the operating system, format documents, save documents, edit files, efficiently correct errors, and fill out forms on the Web. The speech recognition software learns automatically every time a user uses it, and speech recognition is available in English (U.S.), English (U.K.), German (Germany), French (France), Spanish (Spain), Japanese, Chinese (Traditional), and Chinese (Simplified). In addition, the software comes with an interactive tutorial, which can be used to train both the user and the speech recognition engine.
In addition to all the features provided in Windows Vista, Windows 7 provides a wizard for setting up the microphone and a tutorial on how to use the feature.
All Mac OS X computers come pre-installed with the speech recognition software. The software is user independent, and it allows for a user to, "navigate menus and enter keyboard shortcuts; speak checkbox names, radio button names, list items, and button names; and open, close, control, and switch among applications." However, the Apple website recommends a user buy a commercial product called Dictate.
If a user is not satisfied with the built in speech recognition software or a user does not have a built speech recognition software for their OS, then a user may experiment with a commercial product such as DragonNaturallySpeaking. DragonNaturallySpeaking can be bought for the following OS: Windows PC: XP, Vista, 7, and Mac OS(The Mac version is called Dictate.)
Any mobile device running Android OS, Microsoft Windows Phone, iOS 5 or later, or Blackberry OS provides voice command capabilities. In addition to the built speech recognition software for each mobile phone's operating system, a user may download third party voice command applications from each operating system's application store: Apple App store, Google Play, Windows Phone Marketplace (initially Windows Marketplace for Mobile), or BlackBerry App World.
Google has developed an open source operating system called Android, which allows a user to perform voice commands such as: send text messages, listen to music, get directions, call businesses, call contacts, send email, view a map, go to websites, write a note, and search Google. The speech recognition software is available for all devices since Android 2.2(Froyo), but the settings must be set to English. Google allows for the user to change the language, and the user is prompted when he or she first uses the speech recognition feature if he or she would like their voice data to be attached to their Google account. If a user decides to opt into this service, it allows Google to train the software to the user's voice.
Windows Phone is Microsoft's mobile device's operating system. On Windows Phone 7.5, the speech app is user independent and can be used to: call someone from your contact list, call any phone number, redial the last number, send a text message, call your voice mail, open an application, read appointments, query phone status, and search the web. In addition, speech can also be used during a phone call, and the following actions are possible during a phone call: press a number, turn the speaker phone on, or call someone, which puts the current call on hold.
On a BlackBerry smart phone running BlackBerry OS 7 or later, speech can be used to perform the following tasks: call a contact name or number, determine which phone number a user is currently using, check signal strength, check network, check battery, and it has a repeat command. In addition, Blackberry OS allows a user to change the language for giving commands, the language of the voice prompts and allows for speech recognition training.
Apple added Voice Control to its family of iOS devices as a new feature of iOS 3. The iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5, the iPad (3rd and 4th generations), the iPad Mini, and the iPod Touch (5th generation) all come with a newer and more complex voice control system called Siri, replacing Voice Control, which is still present on older devices. Siri is a user independent built in speech recognition feature that allows a user to issue voice commands. With the assistance of Siri a user may issue the following voice commands: send a text message, check the weather, set a reminder, find information, schedule meetings, send an email, find a contact, set an alarm, get directions, track your stocks, set a timer, and ask for examples of sample voice command queries. In addition, Siri works on Bluetooth headsets and wired headphones.
As car technology improves, more features will be added to cars and these features will most likely distract a driver. Voice commands for cars, according to CNET, should allow a driver to issue commands and not be distracted. CNET states that Nuance is suggesting that in the future they will create a software that resemble Siri, but for cars. Most speech recognition software on the market today only have about 50 to 60 voice commands, but Ford Sync has 10,000. However, CNET suggest that even 10,000 voice commands is not sufficient given the complexity and the variety of tasks a user may want to do while driving. Voice command for cars is different from voice command for mobile phones and for computers because a driver may use the feature to look for nearby restaurants, look for gas, driving directions, road conditions, and the location of the nearest hotel. Currently, technology allows a driver to issue voice commands on both a portable GPS like a Garmin and a car manufacturer navigation system.
List of Voice Command Systems Provided By Car Manufacturers: