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Tailoring Smart Homes To Seniors And The Disabled

Tailoring Smart Homes To Seniors And The Disabled

EU-funded researchers have developed an innovative, hands-free, voice-controlled system tailored for smart homes to enhance the daily lives of seniors and individuals with disabilities. This groundbreaking technology empowers users to seamlessly operate household appliances and access online resources without physically interacting with any devices.

As home automation becomes increasingly prevalent and affordable, offering remote control over essential functions like heating, lighting, and communication, ensuring inclusivity for all members of society is crucial. However, traditional interfaces may pose usability challenges for elderly or physically challenged individuals.

Addressing this gap, the EU-funded LISTEN project pioneers a solution that enables users to manage a wide array of smart home functionalities using only their voice commands. Beyond controlling web-linked appliances such as lamps and blinds, the system extends its utility by facilitating tasks like dictating emails, accessing social media platforms, and browsing the internet – all through simple voice interactions.

According to LISTEN project coordinator Athanasios Mouchtaris of the Institute of Computer Science at the Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas in Greece,

Far-field voice control is not just a convenience but a necessity for individuals with disabilities and the elderly. This technology opens doors to web-based services that foster connectivity with information and loved ones, eliminating the barriers posed by traditional input methods.

Life-saving Technology

LISTEN has achieved significant breakthroughs in two key areas: wireless acoustic sensor networks (WASNs) for voice enhancement and large-vocabulary speech recognition for web-based services within smart homes. Notably, our research has focused on integrating these advancements collaboratively rather than in isolation, yielding impactful results showcased in esteemed peer-reviewed international journals.

Practically, our innovations eliminate the need for users to wear headsets or orient themselves towards microphones when communicating, offering unparalleled convenience for individuals with limited mobility or visual impairments. This seamless accessibility could prove life-saving in emergencies, where swift communication is paramount.

While most companies pioneering smart-home voice interface systems are US-based, LISTEN presents a unique opportunity for EU-based academics and industry professionals to engage in cutting-edge technology development and gain traction in the market. While the ultimate goal is to commercialise LISTEN’s research findings through strategic industrial partnerships within the burgeoning field of voice interfaces, we have also initiated patent applications in the US to safeguard our innovations.

Addressing Privacy Concerns

The prevailing trend in voice-based interfaces has been cloud-based solutions, which raise valid concerns among consumers regarding potential privacy breaches. LISTEN, comprising both software and hardware components diverges from this approach.

Addressing privacy apprehensions, LISTEN adopts a localized system that operates exclusively within the user’s environment, ensuring no data is transmitted externally. As Mouchtaris highlights, this emphasis on local operation is a fundamental aspect of LISTEN’s strategy.

In addition to its technological advancements, LISTEN prioritizes the development of young researchers by providing funding for their involvement in research activities and facilitating their participation in prominent international conferences and workshops. Moreover, the project engages with high-school students to impart knowledge about the opportunities and challenges inherent in computer science careers, showcasing the impact of LISTEN’s technologies. Furthermore, LISTEN has co-founded two international summer schools focused on speech technologies.

LISTEN’s pioneering efforts have been made possible through funding from the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions programme.

Project details

  • Project acronym: LISTEN
  • Participants: Greece (Coordinator), Germany, Italy
  • Project N°: 644283
  • Total cost: € 414 000
  • EU contribution: € 414 000
  • Duration: January June 2015 to May 2019

See also

Project website
Project details

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