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May - 2009 - issue > Tech Tracker

Computers to Read Lips, Distinguish Language

Eureka Bharali
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Eureka Bharali
Lip-reading computers can soon be in vogue, with scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) crafting the computing machines that would read lips and recognize different languages. The computers have been taught to distinguish between languages feeding them with the different lip movements that were recorded from a group of 23 bilingual and trilingual speakers.

The research led by Prof. Stephen Cox and Prof. Jake Newman of UEA’s School of Computing Sciences was presented at the IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing (ICASSP) in Taiwan on April 22. The automatic lip-reading technology is based on the recognition of the various movements of the tongue, jaw, and lips. “For instance, it will recognize the frequent ‘lip-rounding’ among French speakers and more prominent tongue movements among Arabic speakers,” says Prof. Cox. The technology currently enables the computer recognize nine languages including English, French, German, Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Italian, Polish, and Russian. The idea of the technology originated during 2007 when the university was speculating over a project that automatically converts videos of lip-motions into text.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the language recognition project is aimed to be of use for the differently-abled, for law enforcement agencies, and in noisy environments. The scientists are also mulling over future projects that aim to make the system better suited to individuals’ physiology and their ways of speaking.
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