Microsoft patents a method for “silent” voice commands

By Avatar on
January 3, 2019
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Nowadays, with most people being on a time crunch, the usage of smart assistants has been growing. No company has launched a way for users to give silent commands. However, Microsoft may change that, as they have patented a module that detects “silent” voice input from users.

All of us like using the voice command feature on smart assistants like Cortana or Siri to save time. With that said, everyone knows that giving voice commands to these assistants in public can cause a lot of social awkwardness.

Talking to our smart assistants and giving them commands can make us feel pretty weird when we are surrounded by people. Clearly, Microsoft agrees with this sentiment, that is probably why the company has patented a technology that can take “silent” voice commands.

According to the patent filing, this technology works when the device is placed near the mouth of the user and extracts voice commands from airflow that is created when the user speaks or mouths words. This module that detects “silent” voice commands can be integrated into several gadgets like smartwatches, headphones, or even a TV remote.

“Although the performance of voice input has been greatly improved, the voice input is still rarely used in public space, such as an office or even homes. This is mainly because the voice leakage could disturb and even annoy surrounding people in the quiet environment. On the other hand, there is still a risk of scattering private information to unintended audiences. These are not technical issues but social issues. Hence there is no easy fix even if voice recognition system performance is greatly improved.

Implementations of the subject matter described herein provide a silent voice input solution without being noticed by surroundings. Compared with conventional voice input solutions which are based on normal speech or whispering that use egressive (breathing-out) airflow while speaking, the proposed “silent” voice input method is performed by using opposite (ingressive or breathing-in) airflow while speaking.

By placing the apparatus (e.g. microphone) of the apparatus very close to the user’s mouth with an small gap formed between the mouth and the apparatus, the proposed silent voice input solution can capture stable utterance signal with a very small voice leakage, and thereby allowing the user to use ultra-low volume speech input in public and mobile situations, without disturbing surrounding people. Besides of air flow direction (ingressive and egressive), all other utterance manners are same as our whispering, so that the proposed method can be used without special practice.”

With all that being said, we should keep in mind that patenting a technology doesn’t always mean it will turn into a product. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope Microsoft uses this technology to reduce the awkwardness associated with giving voice commands.

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