Under the aegis of the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme for R&D, a team of researchers have succeeded in creating a system enabling voice-controlled interaction with home appliances. The system is cheap to run and does not use the Internet.
Rated at the final review meeting as having made “excellent progress”, DIRHA (Distant-speech Interaction for Robust Home Applications), a ‘specific targeted research project’ under the multiannual EU research programme, which was co-ordinated by the Bruno Kessler Foundation in Trento, Italy, concluded a few months ago following two years of research. The EU authorities said that the project had fully achieved its objectives and technical goals for the period and even exceeded expectations.
The DIRHA concept is to install small microphones around the home which are able to recognise requests from users even when having to contend with considerable ambient noise. The Italian, Greek, and Austrian teams carrying out the research work set out to create a system based exclusively on voice recognition to automate interaction with home appliances and focused first and foremost on the needs of people who cannot move around easily. The DIRHA teams have now succeeded in creating a first prototype.
A test group of target users were able to use the prototype system to control the lights, temperature, music and blinds in their homes by speaking their orders out loud. The system is able to recognise the individual user. It works without any Internet connection, in contrast with Amazon Echo, which is positioned in more or less the same market niche. Although as yet there is no indication of the future market price, the DIRHA team claim that this is a low-cost solution. It is also designed to use very little power so as to make the solution accessible to a wide number of people living with reduced mobility. At the present time DIRHA is available in four languages – Italian, German, Greek and Portuguese – and an English version is expected to be developed soon.