A minor bug-bear for us Brits can be the fact that we have to force technology to speak to us in proper English. If you use Word, you’ll need to fiddle around to switch it to “English UK” and we have to put up with devices called “Honor” (instead of “Honour”) and phones that want to go into something called “Airplane mode” instead of “Aeroplane mode”. Aggh!
Don’t even get me started on flavour, humour, labour, centre, litre, lustre, organise, realise, recognise, colour, catalogue, carburettor, encyclopaedia, aluminium or orientated. Yes, orientated. That’s how it’s supposed to be done son.
Let’s not go on about how we spell it “thermometer” but measure a “metre”. We’re all a bit screwed up. Don’t mention “virtualization” either, or the fact that I work with “datacenters” all day. Yes, we have adopted the American “program” for computer code but still use “programme” for TV shows. We’re special, and that’s that.
However, it gets worse, because when I dare to use voice-recognition technology, I open my mouth and this comes out..
The result is a confused computer, wondering what the heck I’m trying to blurt out. Sure, speech recognition is getting a bit better, but you can sometimes find yourself speaking in a mock “posh English” voice or some strange mid-Atlantic twang to get things working. On my last car I had to speak to the Bluetooth kit in a very strange way to get it working, so it’s good to see that Ford have come up with an in-car system that can actually understand the big range of accents here in the UK.
Here someone tried a variety of .. umm.. accents (some are a bit iffy, but it shows that the Ford Voice-Acivated SYNC system works) to test it out..
The system lets you navigate, play music and make calls. It can understand 17 different languages and, after saying just a few words, your local accent will be remembered. Here in the UK they recorded people of all ages and from various different areas to create a system that actually works. Accents for other countries – such as Germany – are also in there, so it should stop frustrated drivers shouting at their car just to make a call.
Full details below. We’ve asked Ford to loan us a Focus ST or a Focus RS500 to “test” for a few weeks but they’ve suddenly gone all quiet. Still, at least they’ve not owned up to fudging lots of emissions tests and deceiving millions of customers, eh VW ???
Ooohh topical. See what I did there? :)
Full details below..
No Need to Lose the Accent – Ford’s Global Voice-Activated SYNC Technology Responds to Local Accents
– Ford’s voice-activated technology, powered by Nuance, recognises and responds to local accents; drivers speak naturally to make calls, play music, and set navigation
– Ford SYNC systems can understand accents from Bavarian German to Liverpudlian English in 17 languages; driver says just a few words, and accent is recognised and remembered
– Acoustic models and dictionary of voice commands was developed with recordings of thousands of drivers asked to read paragraphs, give common greetings, recite numbers
COLOGNE, Germany, Sept. 24 2015 – From the distinctive Scouse made world-famous by the Beatles, to Michael Caine’s sing-song Cockney, accents in the U.K., and across Europe, have delighted and confused listeners – as well as providing impersonators with a living.
Voice-activated technology though has sometimes been less forgiving of regional accents, requiring users to attempt the received pronunciation of “My Fair Lady” to be understood.
Ford SYNC has been developed in partnership with Nuance Communications to enable drivers around the world to speak naturally to make calls, play music, and set navigation – using their local accent. The system understands accents ranging from Bavarian German to Liverpudlian English, and identifies – and remembers – the driver’s specific accent after only a few words.
“People rightly consider their accent a key to who they are as a person. Practically ensuring that you can easily communicate with your vehicle, whatever part of the country you are from, helps ensure a more convenient journey,” said Christof Kellerwessel, global chief engineer, Electronic and Electrical Systems Engineering, Ford of Europe.
Available on more than 12 million Ford vehicles worldwide, and offering 17 language versions*, Ford SYNC systems are supported by a dictionary that includes alternative pronunciations of words, compiled following field recordings of thousands of drivers around the world. Building the dictionaries for each SYNC language version required researchers to travel to every corner of each country and record speakers using some of the broad range of accents that exist, and are continually emerging.
In the U.K., researchers recorded drivers of all ages in towns and cities that included London, Liverpool, and Newcastle, asking them to read paragraphs, give common greetings and recite numbers. Accents from Germany’s 16 states range from the strong and fast northern tones, where the “ch” is pronounced with a guttural, rasping sound, to the more lilting southern Bavarians.
The broad range of accents that exist for a single language reflects the rich diversity of its speakers and by ensuring voice-activated technology responds to local accents, Ford is helping to safeguard that diversity.
“With national languages such as English, French, and German, we are seeing an overall reduction in accent diversity,” said Dominic Watt, senior lecturer, Department of Language & Linguistic Science, University of York. “In many regions, however, people are very proud of their accents. Given the high value that many consumers continue to attach to their local speech patterns, it’s encouraging to see voice-activated technology that embraces accent diversity rather than seeking to dilute it.”
To record all the different accents for each language version, researchers travelled coast-to-coast in the U.S., and recorded more than 2,000 people in China representing a broad spectrum of society and a variety of accents – from Beijingers drawling their “ers” at the end of words to southerners who tend to blur the distinction between consonant sounds like “sh” and “s”.
Ford has designed SYNC with leading voice technology of Nuance to quickly adjust to the driver’s accent and speech pattern. After the ignition is switched off a file is saved to the system’s memory. Should another driver use the vehicle the system will update the file to recognise their voice.
“By recognising different accents SYNC enables users to quickly become confident in accessing a wide range of content and features, and ultimately to get more out of their car experience,” said Fatima Vital, director marketing automotive and consumer electronics, Nuance Communications.
Ford SYNC was first introduced to Europe in 2012 since when it has been extended throughout much of the Ford range.