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The Augmented World Expo 2016 – What We Learned About The Future Of Speech Technology

Speech Technology at the Augmented World Expo

Augmented reality, virtual reality, and wearable technology are gaining traction. We attended the seventh Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara, CA and saw first-hand how developers are bringing these technologies to the market. We saw a lot of things that make us excited for the future of speech technology, and for the way we interact with technology in general.

In this blog post, we’ll share some insights on the trends we saw and what we believe the future will hold for AR, VR, wearable tech, and speech technology. But before we jump into it, here are a few quick facts to get you up to speed.

What is the Augmented World Expo (AWE)?

AWE is the world’s largest conference and expo for professionals focused on the technologies mentioned above. AWE 2015 featured over 100 demos, 200 speakers, and 3,000 attendees.

Now in its seventh year, the AWE gives innovators the chance to show off their new technologies, and also gives them a chance to see what other companies are doing and understand what trends are driving the industry.

What are Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Wearable Technology?

AR, VR, and Wearable Technology

Each of these types of technologies has received a lot of media attention recently and has promising outlooks for the future. However, many people still don’t know the differences between them. Let’s break it down:

  • Virtual Reality (VR) – This technology simulates real life. It puts the user in a totally simulated environment, which is primarily achieved through visual and audio stimulation. Users see the simulated reality in front of them and feel like they are a part of it.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) – This technology layers computer generated enhancements over existing reality. So, instead of creating a new reality like VR does, it is enhancing actual reality. Almost all of us have been exposed to an early form of AR and haven’t realized it. Think of the last time you watched a sporting event on TV. Was there a graphic overlay that showed you what the score was? That’s AR.
  • Wearable Technology – The name describes itself. Wearable technology is a category of tech devices that can be worn by the user. We’ve seen a rise in these types of technology in the forms of health/fitness trackers and smart watches. VR and AR can also fit into this category, such as smart glasses/goggles.

 

What We Saw at AWE 2016

We noticed that companies want to bring these technologies to the mainstream market, and they’re pushing to make it happen as soon as possible. They want their VR, AR, or wearable tech devices to appeal to everyday people.

AWE 2016 and text-to-speechOne of the main ways companies are trying to achieve this is by creating an easy-to-use interface. They want us to be able to interact with their products as simple and easy as possible. This is where we saw speech technology come into the picture.

Owen Evans, a Sales Engineer from Vuzix, talked about why speech technology was important. “The main value of speech technology is that it makes it hands-free, it makes it easier to control,” said Evans while showing off a pair of smart glasses Vuzix was displaying. The M300 Smart Glasses, which the company describes as the “next generation of smart glasses for hands-free mobile computing”, lets users control the device with their voices through speech recognition technology.

The M300 is essentially a wearable computer. Users can see the display while wearing the smart glasses. It has the ability to connect to your smart phone, manage your calendar, and even has an HD camera. The voice activated controls lets users keep their hands free while they’re using the smart glasses. An example of how this benefits the user would be a manufacturer who is watching instructions on how to assemble a circuit board while performing the tasks himself.

AR headset uses speech technology

Vuzix’s M300 was one example of many. We saw several AR and VR devices turn to speech technology to make their devices as easy to use as possible. With speech recognition giving users the ability to control devices with their voice, and with text-to-speech being used as a way for the device to communicate back to the user, we saw that devices are becoming much easier to interact with.

Kim Rowe, CEO of Rowebots, mentioned that speech technology was especially becoming vital for wearable technology. “Small wearables that don’t use real-time video (such as AR and VR) rely on speech as the main interface,” said Rowe.

One such wearable device we saw was a punch tracking sensor from Hykso. To use it, the user places the sensors on each of their wrists, which then gets wrapped up to hold the sensors in place. Then, when the user is boxing, the sensors are able to track workout intensity, punch count, striking intensity, and other useful metrics for training purposes. Users can track these measures with their smart phones.

While this wearable device doesn’t feature speech technology, Hykso’s Marking Director Jerome Rousseau says that text-to-speech technology is something his customers ask about. “It would keep you up to date,” says Rousseau, “It’ll tell you ‘go faster’ or ‘more left punches’ just like a real coach”. With this sort of text-to-speech feature, users would be able to listen to their progress in real-time.

Hykso's boxing tech may use text to speech in the future

As we walked the floor at AWE 2016, we talked to several exhibiters who were excited to let us demo their devices and show us how easy they were to use. There was an excitement in air as exhibiters talked about how AR, VR, and wearable technologies were on the verge of becoming mainstream. They want to change the way we work and live with their devices, such as a doctor using AR glasses to read important information during a surgery or an athlete using a wearable device to track their training.

What does the future hold for AR, VR, and wearable tech?

The expectations are high. According to an analysis by Digi-Capital, the market size for AR and VR is forecasted to be at $150 billion by 2020. $120 billion of that total comes from AR alone. This fast-paced market development will be driven by the fact that AR’s market will be similar to the smartphone/tablet market, according to Digi-Capital. They forecast large revenues for AR device manufactures, consumer apps, and commerce apps that can be used by AR.

Wrapping up

Companies seem to be focusing on making their AR, VR, and wearable devices easy to use. We’re seeing speech technology used more often by these companies as it provides a natural and hands free way of interfacing with technology.

A capable speech recognition engine paired with a high-quality and natural sounding text-to-speech voice would set these devices apart from the rest when it comes to ease of use. Everyone we spoke to agreed that the easier the device was to use, the more successful it would be.

This is the trend that we noticed at AWE 2016. Innovators want their technology to be simple to use, and speech technology seems to be one of the main ways they are achieving this.

What do you think?

Did you attend AWE 2016? What trends did you see? What are your thoughts on the roll of speech technology in AR, VR, and wearable devices? Let us know in the comments!

Learn More about NeoSpeech’s Text-to-Speech

To learn more about the different areas in which Text-to-Speech technology can be used, visit our Text-to-Speech Areas of Application page. And to learn more about the products we offer, visit our Text-to-Speech Products page.

If you’re interested in adding Text-to-Speech software to your application or would like to learn more about TTS, please fill out our Sales Inquiry form and one of our friendly team members will be happy to help.

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