Brown CS News

Grunts to Control Computers

Takeo Igarashi, a postdoc in the Graphics Group here working with John Hughes, hit the worldwide news today. The BBC News Online, no less (, picked up a system he's to present at the ACM UIST (User Interface Software and Technology) conference in Orlando next month. What's more, (;mode=thread), which calls itself ``News for Nerds'' and is read, John Bazik says, by ``millions of geeks like me,'' just grabbed the story and featured it; it's now exciting lots of commentary, both insighful and amusing, in slashdot's feedback section.

Takeo's innovative idea is to use simple human sounds, like grunts and sighs, for controlling computers. Conventional voice-recognition software is still not accurate or efficient enough for general use in an interface. Takeo's system works by measuring the pitch and duration of grunt-like sounds like "ah" and "umm." Thus, Takeo suggests, in scrolling through a document on the Internet you could say ``move down, ahhhh': the document would continue scrolling as long as the sound continued. You could increase the scrolling speed by raising the pitch of your voice, and stop scrolling altogether by stopping speaking. It's much easier to Undo a command with a quick "uh oh" than with a mouse!

Takeo says of his system, ``I personally do not think this is useful in office environments---it's really annoying for officemates! I basically designed it for isolated situations such as controling a computer while driving a car, or rock climbing. I also think the technique is ideal for entertainment applications. I implemented a simple video game using the technique, and children love it.''

You can find his conference paper and a demo video on his home page:

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