CAN A COMPUTER RESPOND

TO THE HUMAN VOICE?

A team of university academics has joined forces with the electronics giant Plessey to produce a speech-driven» typewriter. Scientists have spent years trying to crack the problem of creating a computer which responds to the human * voice. The Plessey team believes that it may be able to produce a machine which responds to the sound and shape of words-and print them out in typewritten form.

Research on the Plessey project has been going on for six months. It combines the electronic expertise of Plessey with the linguistic and computer skills of academics at Edinburgh university CAN A COMPUTER RESPOND, Loughborough and Imperial College, London.

The obstacles to producing a speech-driven typewriter or word-processor are formidable. Computers cannot understand the subtleties of the spoken language, differences in tone, clarity and speed of diction. But the Plessey team hopes to develop amachine which can reproduce the sound and shape of words in written form, without necessarily understanding the content.

«We're not trying to create a voice-controlled typewriter, but one which responds to the human voice», says Dr Henry Thompson, an American expert in artificial intelligence a| Edinburgh university. The machine would operate like this, businessman CAN A COMPUTER RESPOND speaks into a microphone at dictation speed, giving the computer time to analyse the speech signals and-process them into words. Processing is the difficult bit. The human voice is capable of around 130 different speech sounds, so the computer has to select the right one and then decide where to split the sounds into words and sentences.

In addition, there are hundreds of different ways of pronouncing words. So how does the computer cope with a heavy Scottish accent? Dr Thompson says that the computer will have to be «trained». This involves giving it a prepared text and then CAN A COMPUTER RESPOND letting our imaginary Scot dictate the same text so the computer can acclimatize itself. Inevitably, there will be mistakes in final text produced by the computer. But as Thompson says: «How many times do you get a perfect text back from your secretary?»

The big advantage of the speech-driven typewriter will be its commercial potential. «Businessmen want access to computers without having to learn typing skills», says Thompson. «The project is a good example of academics wanting to solve a problem joining up with a company looking for a commercial product».

Thompson has been working on artificial intelligence for CAN A COMPUTER RESPOND nearly 10 years since he studied at Berkeley, the University of California. Other academics include members of the linguistics department at Edinburgh University, a team at Loughborough who specialise in communications between machines and men, and Professor John Darlington, an expert in computer architecture at Imperial College. Plessey, meanwhile, will provide the microchips and the hardware. (After Lionel Barker)

Notes:

· word processor -– текстовый процессор

· bit – бит; кусок, кусочек

· to cope with – справляться

· microchip – микрочип

· hardware – оборудование, аппаратура

· to crack the problem – решать проблему

Exercise I. Read the article through carefully and then decide how many of the following observations are correct.

The article is about...

1)a CAN A COMPUTER RESPOND new kind of typewriter that is on the sale in the ..... UK.

2)a collaboration between industry and university scientists.

3)a typewriter that will be able to record sounds.

4)a machine for transforming sounds into printed words.

5)something that will be very useful for businessmen.

6)a typewriter without a keyboard.

7)a new kind of dictating machine.

8)an invention by an American scientist who is working at Edinburgh University.

9)something Dr Thompson has been working on for ten days.

10)a typewriter that will respond to words spoken by the human voice.

Exercise 2. Are you sure that you pronounce these CAN A COMPUTER RESPOND words correctly?


microchip

artificial

expertise

giant

subtlety

microphone

processing

Edinburgh

architecture

keyboard

peripherals

visual

cursor

microcomputer

appropriate

facsimile

scientist

procedure

machine

hardware

commercial


Exercise 3. Read the following extract. Choose the right word from the list below.

In E-mail messages are sent from _1_ computer to another. Many companies have computerized their accounting procedures because _ 2_ can do the work more quickly and more _3_ than people.

The work the computer does – storing information, finding the right _ 4_ and doing calculations – is called DATA PROCESSING. The part of the computer that processes the data (information) is called the CPU (central _5_ unit).

This contains only electronic _6_, called microchips. A computer can only do what it is instructed to do. The _7_ that are stored in a CAN A COMPUTER RESPOND computer are called the computer program. The_8_ who write these instructions and put them in the computer are called computer programmers. You do not have to be a computer __9 to use a computer.

information, people, one, processing, accurately, programmer, computers, instructions, components

Exercise 4. Now read the text more carefully. In every column choose the word which is a synonym of the underlined word. (Only one answer is possible in each case).


joint forces

unfortunately

unite

break

collaborate

open

crack

perhaps

combine



melt

of course

merge

inevitably

solve

eventually

add

cut

at first


myriad bit potential
lot of chip power
innumerable fragment activity
large piece possibilities
plenty share range
great quantity part earnings

Exercise 5. Discuss the extract and CAN A COMPUTER RESPOND say what new facts you’ve found in it.

Qwerty is the name of the standard typewriter keyboard. Q, W, E, R, T and Y are the first six keys in the upper row of letters. Together they make up the traditional name for the keyboard

The first practical typewriter was put together in Milwaukee between 1867 and 1872. The letters were arranged alphabetically at first, but this proved useless. Because of the mechanics of the machine the letters jammed together when you typed fast. The inventors asked a school teacher which letters were used most in English, and then designed a keyboard where CAN A COMPUTER RESPOND the most-used letters were as far apart as possible — qwerty. Since then typewriters changed completely, but, despite all the changes, the keyboard has-remained the same. Even though they operate in quite a different way, computer keyboards have followed the typewriter, so that we have qwerty computers, too.

TEXT 8


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