Smartphone Speech Recognition Is 3X Faster Than Texting

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Want to save some time? New research suggests you should be using your smartphone's speech-recognition software to text, instead of your thumbs.

Researchers at Stanford University recently devised an experiment pitting Chinese tech giant Baidu's speech recognition software against 32 texters, ages 19 to 32, working with the built-in keyboard on an Apple iPhone. Baidu's Deep Speech 2 software was not only three times faster than the human typists, it was also more accurate.

The researchers hope this revelation "spurs the development of innovative applications of speech recognition technology," which has historically gotten a pretty bad rap, often billed as slow and inaccurate.

"Speech recognition is something that's been promised to us for decades, but it has never worked very well," James Landay, a professor of computer science at Stanford and co-author of the new study, said in a statement. "But we were noticing that in the past two to three years, speech recognition was actually improving a lot, benefiting from big data and deep learning to train its neural networks to produce faster, more accurate results. So we decided to formally test it against humans."

Landay pointed out that the human texters picked for the study weren't exactly hunting and pecking.

"They grew up texting, so we're putting speech recognition up against people who are really good at this task," he said.

Texters took turns typing or speaking 100 phrases such as "physics and chemistry are hard," "have a good weekend," and "go out for some pizza and beer" while the testing app recorded their times and accuracy rates. Half performed the task in English, and the others did so in Mandarin. The results were similar regardless of language — speech recognition was faster and more accurate.

"We should put speech in more applications than just typing an email or text message," Landay said. "You could imagine an interface where you use speech to start and then it switches to a graphical interface that you can touch and control with your finger."

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