Chatty computer plan

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BE CAREFUL next time you curse your computer when it crashes - it might just answer back and tell you exactly what it thinks of you!

Experts from Sheffield University are helping to develop a voice-activated device that will allow computers to interact with their owners.

Artificial intelligence will help a computer to become familiar with a user’s voice, with the ultimate goal that it can understand, speak and behave like a human in a ‘natural way’.

The five-year £6.2 million project is still in its infancy but the Sheffield team, working with colleagues from Edinburgh and Cambridge, believe the technology will have many benefits.

It could improve voice-activated computers, develop web search engines for audio clips, and create voice-controlled devices for the home.

It’s hoped the latter could help older people stay independent for longer.

Dr Thomas Hain, of the university’s department of computer science, said: “Speech technology is clearly on its way into the mainstream, but the key to its success is human-like performance.

“We are working on the foundations of technology that will bring speech to new users and exciting new applications, from clinical assistive technology to robotics, from schools to board rooms.”