Would you believe that some think we can inject our own human DNA into a computer to give it more organic language learning abilities? Well, maybe one day, but we’re not quite there yet. Meanwhile, studies are increasingly working to unravel the mysteries behind how the human mind produces speech and forms meaning through sound, explains this Plum Voice blog. While interactive voice response (IVR) systems boast a team of skilled engineers rather than the human genetic code, one study shows we may just be on our way to full-fledged, futuristic and humanistic IVR.
An article written a few years back supports this mindset, displaying impressive insights that the “FOXP2” gene in human DNA was linked to one’s ability to speak. If this gene gets mutated, of course, crucial speech problems follow. So what did researchers do in their brilliant glory? Inject human FOXP2 into mice in hopes that they “will be forced up the evolutionary ladder,” according to Scientific American.
Humanizing mice seems like a great idea, right? No sarcasm here, as it actually rendered some remarkable results. The mice who were introduced to the human FOXP2 actually began showing brain circuit changes known to be linked to human speech, the article says. This experiment also carried long-term effects which were just as impressive.
“Not only that,” SA says. “The genetically altered mouse pups had different ultrasonic vocalizations than did garden variety mice.”
“The specific mutation in this gene that makes us unique is missing in most other animals, which could explain why we’re one of the few to have a language of our own,” adds Plum.
In more recent speech recognition news, research has shown some inspiring observations related to human speech perception by animals – specifically an educated chimp. This Discovery News article from late last year tells the tale of a 25 year-old chimpanzee named “Panzee” who demonstrated that speech perception is not a uniquely human trait.
What makes this a revolutionary discovery for the world of IVR is not that Panzee understands over 130 English language words (which is impressive on its own), but that the animal can recognize words in sine-wave form, meaning “that she isn’t just responding to a particular person’s voice or emotions, but instead she is processing and perceiving speech as humans do.”
Could you imagine what more research on this could do for IVR systems? Imagine calling a hotline or customer service center and interacting with technology that can process and perceive your speech, emotions and meaning just as you would be speaking to your friend or relative. This means breaking the barrier of not only human speech but that of the ever-present, simplistic, automated IVR voice – ultimately surpassing its current abilities (or more like limitation) of only being able to convert sounds into lines of code that are computer-comprehensive.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman