Five Australian universities launch project to improve voice assistants for kids

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A joint project between five Australian universities, called AusKidTalk, has been launched to improve the performance of voice recognition systems when being used by children.

The universities involved in AusKidTalk are University of New South Wales, the University of Sydney, Western Sydney University, Macquarie University, and the University of Melbourne.

As part of the project, they aim to build a database of Australian children’s voices by recording samples of typical speech, including the repeating of words, digits, and sentences, as well as disordered speech such as unscripted storytelling spoken by 750 children aged between three to 12.

UNSW School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications senior lecturer Beena Ahmed explained that up until now, speech recognition software, which underpins virtual assistant technologies such as Google Assistant, Alex, and Siri, have always relied on samples of adult voices and the accuracy of these systems had been poor when it came to interacting

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