FIGURE 31-9 The Voice Direct voice recognition system from Sensory Inc.
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31.8 SOUND INPUT SENSORS
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If you are using a voice recognition system on a mobile robot, you may wish to extend the microphone away from the robot so motor noise is reduced. For best results, you ll need to be fairly close to the robot and speak directly and clearly into the microphone. Consider using a good-quality RF or infrared wireless microphone for your voice recognition system. The receiver of the wireless microphone is attached to your robot; you hold the microphone itself in your hand.
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31.7 Speech Synthesis
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Not long ago, integrated circuits for the reproduction of human-sounding speech were fairly common. Several companies, including National Semiconductor, Votrax, Texas Instruments, and General Instrument, offered ICs that were not only fairly easy to use, even on the hobbyist level, but surprisingly inexpensive. Voice-driven products using these chips included the Speak-and-Spell toys and voice synthesizers for the blind. In most cases, these ICs could create unlimited speech because they reproduced the fundamental sounds of speech (called phonemes). With the proliferation of digitized recorded speech (using chips like the ISD chip presented previously), unlimited speech synthesizers have become an exception instead of the rule. The companies that made stand-alone speech synthesizer chips either stopped manufacturing them or were themselves sold to other firms that no longer carry the old speech parts. In addition, products such as the sound card for the IBM PC-compatible computers obviated the need for a separate, stand-alone speech circuit. Using only software and a sound card, it is possible to reproduce a male or female voice. In fact, Microsoft provides free speech-making tools and operating system APIs for Windows. If you are using a robot controlled by a laptop running Windows, adding synthesized speech is remarkably easy. See the Microsoft site (www.microsoft.com) for more information.
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31.8 Sound Input Sensors
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Next to sight, the most important human sense is hearing. And compared to sight, sound detection is far easier to implement in robots. You can build simple ears in less than an hour that let your robot listen to the world around it. Sound detection allows your robot creation to respond to your commands, whether they take the form of a series of tones, an ultrasonic whistle, or a hand clap. It can also listen for the tell-tale sounds of intruders or search out the sounds in the room to look for and follow its master. The remainder of this chapter presents several ways to detect sound. Once detected, the sound can trigger a motor to motivate, a light to go lit, a buzzer to buzz, or a computer to compute.
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Obviously, your robot needs a microphone (or mike) to pick up the sounds around it. The most sensitive type of microphone is the electret condenser, which is used in most higher
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SOUND INPUT AND OUTPUT
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quality hi-fi mikes. The trouble with electret condenser elements, unlike crystal element mike, is that they need electricity to operate. Supplying electricity to the microphone element really isn t a problem, however, because the voltage level is low under 4 or 5 V. Most electret condenser microphone elements come with a built-in field effect transistor (FET) amplifier stage. As a result, the sound is amplified before it is passed on to the main amplifier. Electret condenser elements are available from a number of sources, including Radio Shack, for under $3 or $4. You should buy the best one you can. A cheap microphone isn t sensitive enough. The placement of the microphone is important. You should mount the mike element at a location on the robot where vibration from motors is minimal. Otherwise, the robot will do nothing but listen to itself. Depending on the application, such as listening for intruders, you might never be able to place the microphone far enough away from sound sources or make your robot quiet enough. You ll have to program the machine to stop and then listen.