Power in the spoken word 

Power in the spoken word 

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology (IDMT) have developed a speech recognition solution for use in industrial manufacturing.

The practice of using voice-controlled machines in manufacturing has hardly ever been adopted previously, due to it being considered too prone to errors. With Fraunhofer IDMT’s solution, however, machines can now be controlled reliably using voice commands.

The speech recognition system can be relied upon to function even on a noisy factory floor. Employees speak into a wireless headset or a stationary microphone, with loud ambient noise almost entirely tuned out through a combination of directional microphones and an effective noise-cancelling system. 

“For the first time, our technology is enabling people to control machines in manufacturing using voice commands in a reliable, intuitive way. For manufacturing companies, this means increased efficiency and lower costs,” says Marvin Norda, project manager for Voice Controlled Production at Fraunhofer IDMT.

Less walking – and free hands

The technology also has advantages for employees, with safe and hygienic contactless machine operation safeguarding their health. When employees are controlling multiple machines, the system reduces the distances they need to walk, while they can use a mobile device to issue voice commands to the equipment from a distance.

Both hands are also kept free, allowing employees to place a workpiece in position in the work area while simultaneously giving the robot an instruction, such as “lower the arm” or “grip the workpiece”.

“The speech recognition technology can handle hundreds of individual commands depending on the application and is not limited to a particular voice. New or modified commands can be quickly added and trained into the system,” expands Norda.

The speech recognition software can be integrated into a cloud or a company server, depending on the company’s requirements. It is also possible to incorporate a mini-PC or even integrate the system into a machine’s programmable logic controller without any issues.

The solution, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony and the Volkswagen Foundation, is now ready for the market and is already being tested by some industry customers.

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