Navigation Links
Generating 'oohs' and 'aahs': Vocal Joystick uses voice to surf the Internet

A new tool lets people with disabilities control a computer cursor without lifting a finger. Early tests suggest that an experienced user of Vocal Joystick would have as much control as someone using a handheld device.

The Internet offers wide appeal to people with disabilities. But many of those same people find it frustrating or impossible to use a handheld mouse. Software developed at the University of Washington provides an alternative using one of the oldest and most versatile modes of communication: the human voice.

"There are many people who have perfect use of their voice who don't have use of their hands and arms," said Jeffrey Bilmes, a UW associate professor of electrical engineering. "I think there are several reasons why Vocal Joystick might be a better approach, or at least a viable alternative, to brain-computer interfaces." The tool's latest developments will be presented this month in Tempe, Ariz. at the Assets Conference on Computers and Accessibility.

Vocal Joystick detects sounds 100 times a second and instantaneously turns that sound into movement on the screen. Different vowel sounds dictate the direction: "ah," "ee," "aw" and "oo" and other sounds move the cursor one of eight directions. Users can transition smoothly from one vowel to another, and louder sounds make the cursor move faster. The sounds "k" and "ch" simulate clicking and releasing the mouse buttons.

Versions of Vocal Joystick exist for browsing the Web, drawing on a screen, controlling a cursor and playing a video game. A version also exists for operating a robotic arm, and Bilmes believes the technology could be used to control an electronic wheelchair.

Existing substitutes for the handheld mouse include eye trackers, sip-and-puff devices, head-tracking systems and other tools. Each technology has drawbacks. Eye-tracking devices are expensive and require that the eye simultaneously take in information and control the cursor, which can cause confusion. Sip-and-puff joysticks held in the mouth must be spit out if the user wants to speak, and can be tiring. Head-tracking devices require neck movement and expensive hardware.

Vocal Joystick requires only a microphone, a computer with a standard sound card and a user who can produce vocal sounds.

"A lot of people ask: 'Why don't you just use speech recognition"'" Bilmes said. "It would be very slow to move a cursor using discrete commands like 'move right' or 'go faster.' The voice, however, is able to do continuous commands quickly and easily." Early tests suggest that an experienced user of Vocal Joystick would have as much control as someone using a handheld device.

In the laboratory, doctoral student Jonathan Malkin, who helped develop the tool, uses Vocal Joystick to play a game called Fish Tale. It takes two minutes to train the program for Malkin's voice. He then moves the fish character easily around the screen, raising his voice slightly to speed up and avoid being eaten by a predator fish.

The newest development, which will be presented at the October meeting in Tempe, uses Vocal Joystick to control a robotic arm. The pitch of the tone moves the arm up and down; other commands are unchanged. This is the first time that vocal commands have been used to control a three-dimensional object, Bilmes said.

One initial concern, he said, was whether people would feel self-conscious using the tool.

"But once you try it you immediately forget what you're saying," Bilmes said. "I usually go to the New York Times' Web site to test the system and then I get distracted and start reading the news. I forget that I'm using it."

To test the device, the group has been working with about eight spinal-cord injury patients at the UW Medical Center since March.

"It's a really exciting idea. I think it has tremendous potential," said Kurt Johnson, a professor of rehabilitation medicine who is helping with the tests.

Bilmes said he hopes people will become more adept at using the system over time. Future research will incorporate more advanced controls that use more aspects of the human voice, such as repeated vocalizations, vibrato, degree of nasality and trills.

"While people use their voices to communicate with just words and phrases," Bilmes said, "the human voice is an incredibly flexible instrument, and can do so much more."


Contact: Hannah Hickey
University of Washington

Related medicine news :

1. Blood Cells Capable of Regenerating Liver
2. Therapeutic cloning by regenerating stem cells from heart muscles
3. Two Distinct Types of Vocal Cord Dysfunction Identified
4. Dysfunction of Vocal Cord Often Misdiagnosed for Asthma
5. Autistic Individuals can Be trained to Comprehend Visual and Vocal Cues
6. Brain Controlled Movements Are Studied Using Robotic- Joystick
7. Possibility Of Regaining Speech After Tongue, Voice Box Removal
8. Larynx transplant restores patients voice after 20 years
9. Voice may be improved by surgery
10. The patients voice
11. Collagen improves voice quality in Parkinsonism
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/12/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... drug delivery system that we intend to develop to enable prevention of a ... lead to severe hearing loss, especially in pediatric patients. For cisplatin, hearing loss ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... 2017 , ... HMP , a leader in healthcare events and education, today ... Digital Award for ‘Best B-to-B Healthcare Website.’ Winners were announced during the Eddie & ... award competition recognizes editorial and design excellence across a range of sectors. This year’s ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2017 , ... On Saturday, ... a treadmill relay – Miles by Moonlight to raise money for the American Heart ... or more. , Teams will work together to keep their treadmills moving for ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... first interactive health literacy software tool, and the Cancer Patient Education Network (CPEN), ... patient education, today announce a new strategic alliance. , As CPEN’s strategic ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... FL (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... presenting the latest in wound care advancements to physician colleagues, skilled nursing facility ... is titled, "Navigating the Treacherous Waters of Wound Care." , "At many of ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:9/25/2017)... --  Montrium , an industry leader in powerful ... Trial Master Files & Inspection Readiness Conference ( ... Services has selected eTMF Connect to ... a leading European contract research organization (CRO), will ... enable greater collaboration with sponsors, improve compliance and ...
(Date:9/23/2017)... , Sept. 22, 2017 Janssen Biotech, Inc. ... response letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ... of sirukumab for the treatment of moderately to severely ... additional clinical data are needed to further evaluate the ... severely active RA. ...
(Date:9/22/2017)... AVACEN Medical (AVACEN) announced that its CE-Marked ... those with the widespread pain associated with fibromyalgia in ... Essex, England commented, "I had ... no sleep at all, tremendous pain, with every movement ... [the AVACEN 100] enough, how this has and is ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: