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New Speech Recognition System
June 17, 2010   
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MagicScribeMedical is the first Polish speech recognition system that converts spoken words into text on a computer screen. It is the joint work of scientists from the Wrocław University of Technology and research and development firm Unikkon Integral.

The system can process 160 words per minute, which is three times faster than the average person is able to write using a computer keyboard.

MagicScribeMedical is designed for use by the medical profession and its main aim is to improve patient care. Doctors will also find the system far more comfortable to use, the researchers say, and it will shorten by a third the time needed to prepare patients’ diagnostic reports, which will lead to cost savings too. Furthermore there will be less chance of mistakes since oral reports are more accurate than typed ones, and doctors will be able to correct possible errors as these occur.

“A speech recognition system works on the basis of a statistical analysis of the language and speech signals received during dictation,” says Jerzy Sas from the Institute of Informatics of the Technical University of Wrocław.

Lost in translation
For the speech recognition system to work well, two types of software are required: a language program and one for acoustics. To date these have only been available in English. Attempts to program the system in the Polish language have been fraught with difficulties because Polish is far more difficult to recognize than English. The reason for this is the wide use of inflection, or the change in the form of a word, typically the ending, and also a somewhat unconstrained word order. Moreover, the phonetics of the Polish language makes it difficult to recognize because automated analysis has difficulty in differentiating between many sounds. In view of these problems, the designers at Unikkon decided to produce a variety of Polish-language software each designed for a specific application, thereby creating a separate dictionary of frequently used words by specialists in a given area.

MagicScribeMedical took four years to develop. First, the designers created a range of “speech corpuses” which they filled with phrases used by doctors during the use of X-ray, ultrasound and computed tomography equipment. By the end of 2009 MagicScribeMedical had a complete medical dictionary and was ready for use by doctors. The system recognizes medical terminology, the names of individual diseases, drugs and so on. The system was tested for the first time in October 2009 within a network of private diagnostic centers on 100 patients in 15 locations throughout Poland. Today the system has caught the interest of not only private clinics but also several large state-run hospitals. The Children’s Memorial Health Institute in Warsaw, one of the biggest pediatric hospitals in Poland, has been testing MagicScribeMedical since February this year.

MagicScribeMedical is simple to use and consists of a readable interface compatible with Microsoft Windows. It can be utilized in two different ways. The first is direct dictation of diagnostic reports. The second is the playback of previously recorded information on a ictaphone or similar mobile digital apparatus. Furthermore, the system ensures that new patient information is automatically added to that patient’s file. MagicScribeMedical is capable of correctly transcribing 98 percent of dictated text, the researchers say.

Speaking instead of writing
Unikkon Integral plans in the future to create similar software in Polish for other applications besides medical. A trial version of MagicScribePublic, for use in public administration, is already available. It is designed to take minutes of meetings, for use by the police, in law courts, and by the Institute of Media Monitoring. Unikkon Integral is also in talks with mobile telephony operators to launch a service whereby phone users would be able to send text messages by speaking the message instead of writing it. This could be possible within a year.

MagicScribeMedical, launched in the middle of last year, has already reaped several awards including the Innovative Product award during last year’s National Innovation Leaders competition and second prize in this year’s Mazovia Innovator competition.
Ewa Dereń
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