From touch to speech recognition? When COVID-19 challenges our human-machine interfaces.

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COVID-19, just the beginning?

 

The health crisis linked to COVID-19 has truly transformed our society. This societal and economic evolution has been driven by new public health concerns. Awareness of the health risks related to our various uses has increased in all environments.

Indeed, the main vector of transmission is the micro-droplets of saliva contained in the breath. These are deposited on surfaces, directly or by extension (e.g. hands), whatever they are, and favour the spread of the virus. Thus, tables, doorknobs, public transport bars or…touch screens, all are possible “risk areas”.

We know all the more today that this crisis episode is nothing new and in the future it will be an increasingly common phenomenon. Our systems must evolve to adapt to new circumstances and adopt new standards, in order to bring security and peace of mind to everyone.

“Beyond health systems and crisis management, this event has put back on the table all the questions about our uses, which have become the standard up to now”.

A crisis that fosters innovation

Identified problems = adapted solutions? This is the idea that many organizations, national or global, public or private, have decided to look for. Indeed, competitions and calls for projects in these themes related to the pandemic have multiplied (Challenge COVID-19 by BPI France or Call for projects Aéroport de Paris won by Vivoka! ). Artificial radiologist, medical connected bracelet, express virus detector, covid assistance voicebot… : mixing urgency and needs, crises are often gas pedals of innovation.

 

“Many say, COVID-19 has caused an epidemic of innovation.”

 

We are particularly interested in the transformation of our habits through a technology that is already well known but still in the process of being adopted: speech recognition and synthesis!

There is every reason to believe that COVID-19 has really given credit to this technology, particularly for its uses that are perfectly in line with current health needs.

Don’t touch, talk (but with a mask!).

Indeed, what better way to redefine our uses than to use an interaction method (and all its codes) that is still very little used and above all intangible?

 

Faced with COVID-19, voice technologies have a more than robust argument!

  • Speech recognition is a truly “touchless” technology, reducing almost all physical contact with interfaces (terminals, screens, counters, etc.) and therefore the risks of transmission.
  • The power of voice, whether recognition or synthesis, is in its ability to respond quickly and intuitively to a need. Thanks to this performance, voice interfaces reduce bottlenecks and the number of people simultaneously in the same place, on the same service.
  • Wearing a mask (which has become mandatory in many circumstances) in no way hinders the accuracy of speech recognition according to a study from  the Education Testing Service.

 

Voice, which was already in a good trend (4.2 billion devices equipped and doubling by 2024 according to Juniper Research), is gaining even more notoriety, this time due to its touchless and covide-free properties. Often considered a gadget, its contextualized use cases give it legitimacy as a real technology of the future.

Several players see a strong potential in it, such as Aéroports de Paris in the context of a post-confinement call for projects.

 

Vivoka and Aéroport de Paris (ADP Group) to develop voice in airports.

 

Airports are on the front line when health problems explode because they are the cause of their migration. To fight against the inherent risks, ADP (Aéroport de Paris) has decided to give free rein to innovation.

In this context, Vivoka had the opportunity to win the Aéroports de Paris voice call for projects. This project mainly concerns the integration of voice recognition technologies into the various media within the group’s airports.

  • Indeed several poles are subject to experimentation :
    • Controlling elevators by voice in their various actions (ascending/descending, opening/closing the door …)
    • Navigate the boarding and ticket printing kiosks with voice to :

      – Facilitate the use of the tool

      – Limit the transmission of viruses

These 3 elements constitute the problems identified by the group, particularly with regard to bottlenecks and so-called high-risk zones during peak periods.

The advanced results of the project in collaboration with Vivoka are expected at the end of the experimentation period.

In concrete terms, VIDOC-19, like all major crises, is a springboard for innovation despite the problems it causes.

Through the circumstances of this pandemic, speech recognition (and all technologies in the same universe) have been acclaimed for their “touchless” mode of interaction.