- White Belt
- Posts: 1
- Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 12:11 am
I just saw you on American Inventor tonight. Your idea looks great, and I know that you will pursue it with great enthusiasm. I'm also sure that after everyone sees you on TV you will be getting calls from many many of them, and I hope that some of them are people who can help you bring your invention to life.
I'm not an inventor, and I'm not even very smart. I am an electrical and computer engineer working for a computer company in Austin, and my expertise is in computer and server design (only 7 years). Anyway, I wanted to say a few things about your idea, and you can take them for what they're worth.
I know that I don't have to tell you this, but forget about what they said on American Inventor about your idea not having mass appeal. You know as well as anyone that your invention would be a huge breakthrough for millions of people around the world. Add a little more software to this product, and you could turn this into a translator and talk to people who don't even speak English. I'm sure others can think of even more uses for it, but I don't want to focus on trying to improve the great idea that you already have.
You can break your invention down into four parts:
On the main user's end:
1) An interface for a user to enter language into the device without using speech. There are thousands of mobile devices that already do this. Most use either a numeric phone keypad text messaging interface (slow and clumsy if you ask me), a written character recognition interface (Palm Pilot uses a pad and a stylus pen), and the most useful is the keypad that you will find on a Blackberry or Sidekick. I think this technology exists, so it should be easy to implement into your invention.
2) A display to the user. This is a simple screen that displays the text of the language that the "other" user has entered on their side. A text screen like this is also easy to implement in any portable device.
On the other end:
3) An output for the "other" user. This will most likely be a speaker, but it could just as easily be a text screen if the other user is also deaf or maybe just happens to be in a situation where it is difficult to hear; a loud bar, for example. Again, this is fairly simple technology to implement.
4) This is the difficult one. It is the speech input that the "other" user uses to enter language into the device. On American Inventor you said that this technology exists. I think you are right, to a certain extent. I have read a few magazine articles about this throughout the last 10 years, and I even remember some of my better professors discussing the subject of speech recognition back when I went to school in '99.
Speech recognition is much more difficult than it seems, otherwise I think we would see more of the technology all over the place. You can take the example of calling up the airlines to find out when your flight leaves, and they ask you to say your flight number and answer some YES or NO questions. They may ask you to repeat yourself, or they sometimes get the numbers wrong, but it works pretty well overall. Remember that it is a very limited vocabulary that it must decipher, so being able to recognize regular speech is probably much more difficult.
All of that being said, I do think that it is VERY possible to take the best speech recognition technology today and implement it into your invention. The biggest hurdle might be that many companies have put a lot of money into creating this software, so they may want liscensing fees, but it should be possible. It may also be a little more limited than what we hope for today. The software may not recognize heavy accents well or may need to be trained to only understand voices that it has already heard. And people may need to speak more slowly than they do in regular conversation. Even with those limitations, I think this product would be great, and the voice recognition software will only get better as time goes by, so it will eventually be as perfect as you hope.
I've rambled quite a bit, but I'd like to say that you can probably begin some limited experiments using a regular computer. You can enter text in and have the computer "say" it through the speakers. I think this software may already come bundled in some of the Microsoft Windows packages, and I wouldn't doubt that Apple also has this. As for the speech recognition, I think your best bet is to scour the internet for all speech recognition software out there and try it out. You should go for the best (and probably most expensive) software out there. You may be able to call the companies and use your American Inventor fame to get it for free. Once you find something that seems to work using a regular computer, the next challenge is shrinking it all down into a portable device. That discussion is for another time, but I know that if you have some sort of working model using a laptop computer, you will have a better chance of convincing the big companies to manufacture a portable device that does the same thing. It's all about the proof of concept.