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From the Publisher
November 3, 2014   
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Getting a computer to convert speech and natural language into written text is a major challenge for modern science. There are many potential uses for speech recognition technology being developed by companies like Poland’s Voicelab, which is carrying out a project called “Continuous speech recognition, background noise reduction and voice biometrics technology,” financed by the National Center for Research and Development under its Go_Global.pl program.

As we reported in a previous issue of The Polish Science Voice, such systems are based on characteristics associated with the physics of speech, resulting from the frequency of a voice and the anatomy of an individual’s speech organs, such as the size and shape of their larynx. Other unique features are related to how we speak and what we say—how we accentuate words, how fast we utter them, how we choose words, what kind of intonation we use, and whether we take a breath often and make breaks between words. All these features vary from one speaker to another.

Voice identification is convenient because it does not require any additional sensors. All other biometric verification methods, such as iris identification, require the installation of a special scanning device. In voice biometrics, everyone has such a device in their pocket—a mobile phone.

The precision of identification methods has increased substantially in recent years. Despite fears voiced by some, this method is a safe way of protecting access to money in an account and of protecting personal data. According to experts, it’s much easier to pretend to be someone else by, for example, stealing their social security number or by finding out their mother’s maiden name. Imitating a person’s voice and their manner of speaking is much more difficult.

According to Tomasz Szwelnik, CEO of Voicelab, speech recognition technology will soon be used by most banks. Voicelab has developed a system called Voicebanking that enables customers to make a transfer using a mobile banking application, check their account balance and carry out other banking operations.

Voicelab has already introduced its innovative system in two banks in Poland and is negotiating with others, says Szwelnik, adding that these are “the first innovative implementations of this kind in Europe.”

Meanwhile, scientists from the Warsaw University of Technology are working to build tiny drone-like robots that will be able to fly and pollinate crops just as honeybees do. Technology of this kind could help save the world from future famine now that honey bees are dying out by the millions across the planet due to a combination of factors including pesticides, viruses and parasites.

Work on the Polish artificial bee device is being carried out by a team of Warsaw University of Technology scientists led by Rafał Dalewski, Ph.D., and made up of scientists from the university’s Faculty of Power and Aeronautical Engineering. The project is being financed from funds earmarked for young, up-and-coming scientists by the National Center for Research and Development under its Lider (Leader) program.

The tiny robotic device the scientists have designed must be equipped with a complex flying mechanism in order to be able to move up and down between plants, posing a considerable challenge for mechanics and engineers.

According to Dalewski, the new pollinating mini-robots have big market potential and will attract the attention of both growers and companies producing seed in Poland and abroad.
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