New speech recognition system makes gaming more fun for kids

New York: As commercial speech recognition systems are derived largely from adult speech, Disney researchers have developed a new speech technology system that could make playing certain video games or interactions with robots more fun for kids.

The new technology sorts through the overlapping speech, social side talk and creative pronunciations of young children to help them better control a video game called Mole Madness that require kids to say say just two words – “jump” and “go”.

The multi-keyword-spotting system, developed by Disney Research, could make it possible to design any number of speech-based game or entertainment applications for children, including interactions with robots, the study said.

“Speech recognition applications have become increasingly commonplace as the technology has matured, but understanding what kids say when they play remains difficult,” said Jessica Hodgins, vice president at Disney Research – an international network of research labs in US.

“Kids don’t necessarily pronounce words quite like adults and when they are playing together, as they like to do, they often engage in side banter, or exclamations of excitement, or simply talk over each other,” Lehman said.

In the cooperative Mole Madness – a two-player video game, kids needed to say just two words – “jump” and “go” while moving an animated mole through its environment, gathering rewards as they avoid obstacles.

During game play, the players often say their commands simultaneously. In other cases, they make statements to each other, such as “Don’t say ‘go’ yet,” that can be misinterpreted by the system.

“This technology can be reproduced with other vocabulary, allowing designers and developers to build novel children’s applications that use limited speech as an input method,” Lehman said.

The findings were presented at the Workshop on Child Computer Interaction in San Francisco.