The Campus Fryslân of the University of Groningen will start after the summer with a new MA program at Leeuwarden in the field of speech technology. This is about the capabilities available to control devices that use voice, but it is also about the use of new technologies, for example language recognition or the detection of syndromes in the voice.
According to Campus Fryslân, the Voice-Technology program is a unique master’s program in Europe. There is nowhere else for a teacher to focus completely on this topic. The training is not only about current technology but also about potential applications in the future Omroup Freslin.
The onset of Parkinson’s disease
It is known in general that the possibilities of giving your mobile phone a (search) command with your voice. Apple has a virtual assistant Siri and smart speakers from companies like Google and Amazon that also work with speech technology. The new study is about this technology, but also about applications, for example, for people who cannot read and write well. They can then operate the devices with their own voices on which the device reads texts.
It goes further, says language researcher Jelski Dejkstra from Campus Fryslân. “We are also working on an app that should recognize when someone has an early stage of Parkinson’s disease. You can hear it in someone’s voice. A device like this will soon detect it.”
Frisian as an endangered language
Dijkstra isn’t in Leeuwarden for nothing. She believes that voice technology can also be used to preserve endangered languages such as Frisian, for example by developing applications that help people learn the Frisian language.
“But the intention is also to give Frisian a place on existing devices so that you can also use Frisian on these new platforms,” says Dijkstra. “Google, Amazon and all of those others won’t do it themselves, so someone else will have to invest time in it.”