Voice Technology: The latest trend in higher education
“Hey, Alexa! Place an order for the iPhone XS, 64 GB”
“Which colour do you want Swapnil, Gold, Silver or Space Grey?”
“Space Grey please, Alexa!”
Lo and behold! Your Space Grey, iPhone XS 64 GB, is at your doorstep within a week of giving a voice command to your Amazon Echo, a smart speaker and a home assistant. Virtual personal assistants and virtual home assistants have seen a surge in popularity and usage.
Smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home have found wider acceptance in many households. People are turning to these speakers to make their lives easier. These speakers can easily take care of all your appointments, remind you about upcoming meetings and what you need to prepare for them, remind you to follow up with your client and even pay the electricity bill for you.
This graph here shows how many voice assistants were installed in 2019:
In the past six months, there were 32.1 Million engagements with Alexa, out of which 12.04% were from Indian users. According to a study by Juniper Research, by 2023 there will be 8 billion voice assistants in use.
These devices are the driving forces of the new phenomenon of smart homes. These are houses which can be controlled from simple voice commands. From asking your home assistant to set the mood for a romantic dinner to ordering food from your favourite restaurant for the romantic dinner, these virtual assistants can do everything.
These devices work on the AI-powered voice recognition technology and they truly are personal assistants. These devices learn about your preferences continuously and personalize the information you receive. For example, these devices will remember which restaurant you frequently order from and will present you with similar restaurants when the opportunity presents.
“Hey Siri, tell me more about voice recognition technology”
Give Siri some rest, and let me elaborate on how this technology functions.
Voice recognition is the capacity of a machine or program to receive and comprehend and complete spoken directions. Voice recognition has gained popularity and uses with the ascent of AI and smart assistants, for example, Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Assistant.
Voice recognition frameworks empower users to interact with technology basically by addressing it, allowing hands-free information exchanges, reminders and other simple tasks to take place.
Voice recognition programming on PCs necessitates that Analog audio input is changed over into digital signals, known as analog-to-digital transformation. For a PC to decode a signal, it must have a digital database, or vocabulary, of words or syllables, as well as a fast means for comparing this information with signals.
The speech patterns are stored on the hard drive and stacked into memory when the program is run. A comparator checks these stored patterns against the yield of the A/D (Analog-to-digital) converter; an activity called pattern recognition.
Practically speaking, the size of a voice recognition program’s successful vocabulary is directly related to the random access memory capacity of the computer in which it is installed. A voice recognition program runs ordinarily quicker if the whole vocabulary can be stacked into the RAM, as contrasted with searching the hard drive for a portion of the matches. Processing speed is critical, too, because it influences how quick the PC can scan the RAM for matches.
Can Voice Recognition be used in Education?
Lonely vast libraries, dingy and cramped dorm rooms, crowded and noisy coffee shops. These are most likely what study hours look like for those pursuing higher education at universities. Long hours spent in one of these settings has long been the centre for knowledge for students across the world. However, things are slowly but steadily progressing towards a much more steadfast and tech-savvy world, with voice technology making an entry into the higher education space.
A “Let me get back to you on that” from the professor could become a thing of the past when all that is to be done is asking the latest AI integrated voice activation unit closest to you, be it, Alexa, Siri or Cortana. This is because educational institutions and educators in the higher education space across the world are looking at voice-enabled technology as a legitimately promising tool on campus, inside and outside the classroom.
There are quite a few advantages of using this technology in the education space. From easy access to university information to real-world understanding of topics, voice technology promises to be a relevant tool for the universities and students. And it almost seems imperative, at this point. Since the advent of voice-enabled devices, the technology has smoothly entered our homes, our kitchens and bedrooms, our office spaces and even our lawns.
In countries like the USA, 9 out of 10 children have access to smart speakers. It was only a matter of time when this technology came knocking at the doors of education.
The utility of voice-enabled technology has promising prospects to enable students with tools to ensure a smooth sail through their higher education, with completion of projects, expansion of their technical skills and making them more industry-ready. A testament to this would be the students of Arizona State University, who used voice-enabled technology to develop an app that allows learners with Down Syndrome to access voice-guided relaxation techniques and practices, to hear words of encouragement and reassurance spoken by their caregivers, and to pose questions.
Understandably, this savvy piece of technology has taken to the liking of the student body, as it considerably reduces the time and energy students spend crouched over books, staring at screens, waiting in lines at administrative offices, and in anticipation of their professors’ arrival to get their work done and questions answered.
With the evident initial success of the implementation of this technology in certain spaces of educational institutions, universities are now closely looking at employing voice-enabled devices to inform, direct and aid classroom instruction effectively. Among a few, one plan involves installing devices in classrooms to allow faculty members to easily control audiovisual technologies and be less dependent on lectures.
How Voice Recognition is being used in Higher Education?
1. Smart Campus Assistants
Universities’ are choosing to equip their student housing facilities with individual voice-enabled technology devices. And students are utilising the same for a plethora of things including locating rooms and offices, determining when to opt or opt-out of classes, and obtain other college and campus-related information. Students also use these devices to listen to the college radio station via voice command as well as to hear the latest campus news.
2. Podcasting: Learning Anytime and Anywhere
One of the greatest advantages of podcasts is their round the clock availability. Students can easily access the podcasts at any time that suits them. This means that students can learn on the go and whenever they are comfortable.
Many students have access to a smartphone and an internet connection, and they can download these podcasts on their mobile devices and listen to them on loop or as many time as they want to listen to them.
There are many podcast apps which can be downloaded on mobile devices, enabling students to access a wide array of podcats and find the ones which they like the best. Many music streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have also started streaming podcasts on their platforms, increasing the number of podcasts students can access very easily.
Many universities have also started their own podcasts on various subjects and topics. These podcasts are hosted by reputed professors and are usually accessible to anyone without any fee or a very minimal fee. This means that students have access to quality learning material anytime, anywhere.
Students have also been using voice-based technology to retrieve audio lectures and go over their courses subsequent to the completion of the lectures.
Professors can record their lectures and upload them as podcasts. Students can download these podcasts and listen to them again and again. This also creates a very valuable learning material for students.
As these recorded lectures are accessible anytime and anywhere, students can access them easily and revise whenever they want to. These podcasts will come in handy before the exams when students have to revise topics. This will reduce the burden and stress that students face before exams as lectures will always be available to them.
Podcasts can also be used by students to understand a concept or topic which they found hard to grasp during lectures. The 24/7 availability of podcasts helps students understand topics at their own pace.
4. Self-Paced Learning
With access to learning material 24/7 and the command of your voice, voice-recognition technology helps students to learn at a comfortable pace. It provides a lot of flexibility. Manu educational podcasters are having interesting learning topics about some of the latest knowledge in various fields like technology, history, geography etc. You can listen to podcast multiple times, revise the things.
You can access any podcast or nay audio material for free, as many times as you want and whenever you want. This is perhaps the most comfortable learning has been for students in a very long time. There is no need to rush to the library during library hours and waiting in lines for hours, only to find out the reference book you wanted has been given to someone else and you won’t have it for another week!
AI-driven technologies like voice recognition and facial recognition over the world. Our devices are getting more intelligent and are assisting us in our daily tasks. The day when we control our homes, office spaces and cars at a mere voice command or even a thought, is not very far.
As we have seen AI has applications across varied sectors, and it is only natural to see voice-recognition play a bigger role in education in the very near future. Voice-enabled personal teaching assistants could very well be the new students’ aid.
“Hey, Siri! You amaze us all!”
Swapnil has experience of more than 15 years in the Information Technology sector. He has been working on digital platforms in the education sector. Swapnil is an avid reader and writes articles on technology and leading developments in the education and IT sectors.
Swapnil is the founder of Splashgain, an Education Technology company from India working on various innovative EdTech platforms for examinations, proctoring solutions, digital admission process and more. Splashgain has been working with many educational institutes and universities for AI-powered innovations and solutions to transform the education sector.
Splashgain has also filed a patent for an innovative product based on AI.