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Speech (voice) Recognition in High-performance fighter aircraft

ISubstantial efforts have been devoted in the last decade to the test and evaluation of speech recognition in fighter aircraft. Of particular note are the U.S. program in speech recognition for the Advanced Fighter Technology Integration (AFTI)/F-16 aircraft (F-16 VISTA), the program in France on installing speech recognition systems on Mirage aircraft, and programs in the UK dealing with a variety of aircraft platforms. In these programs, speech recognizers have been operated successfully in fighter aircraft with applications including: setting radio frequencies, commanding an autopilot system, setting steer-point coordinates and weapons release parameters, and controlling flight displays. Generally, only very limited, constrained vocabularies have been used successfully, and a major effort has been devoted to integration of the speech recognizer with the avionics system.

Some important conclusions from the work were as follows:

Speech recognition has definite potential for reducing pilot workload, but this potential was not realized consistently.

Achievement of very high recognition accuracy (95% or more) was the most critical factor for making the speech recognition system useful — with lower recognition rates, pilots would not use the system.
More natural vocabulary and grammar, and shorter training times would be useful, but only if very high recognition rates could be maintained.

Laboratory research in robust speech recognition for military environments has produced promising results which, if extendable to the cockpit, should improve the utility of speech recognition in high-performance aircraft.

Working with Swedish pilots flying in the JAS-39 Gripen cockpit, Englund (2004) found recognition deteriorated with increasing G-loads. It was also concluded that adaptation greatly improved the results in all cases and introducing models for breathing was shown to improve recognition scores significantly. Contrary to what might be expected, no effects of the broken English of the speakers were found. It was evident that spontaneous speech caused problems for the recognizer, as could be expected. A restricted vocabulary, and above all, a proper syntax, could thus be expected to improve recognition accuracy substantially.

The Eurofighter Typhoon currently in service with the UK RAF employs a speaker-dependent system, i.e. it requires each pilot to create a template. The system is not used for any safety critical or weapon critical tasks, such as weapon release or lowering of the undercarriage, but is used for a wide range of other cockpit functions. Voice commands are confirmed by visual and/or aural feedback. The system is seen as a major design feature in the reduction of pilot workload, and even allows the pilot to assign targets to himself with two simple voice commands or to any of his wingmen with only five commands.

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