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Baidu replacing QWERTY, defaults to voice-centric keyboard

Mon 3 Oct 2016

TalkType Baidu

A new third-party keyboard app from Chinese web services Baidu is taking the spotlight away from QWERTY with a voice-focused interface.

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 15.06.20Users of the free Android TalkType app are welcomed by a large microphone icon and prompted to ‘Speak now’ to begin dictating. Baidu claims that the app’s speech recognition is more accurate than actual typing, having developed and tested the technology alongside speech software experts at Stanford University.

The Stanford study into the Deep Speech 2 software behind TalkType, involved 32 volunteers between the ages of 19 and 32, with half of the subjects performing the test in English and the other half in their native Mandarin. The researchers concluded that Baidu’s technology was three times faster than a typical user typing in English. The results showed that the TalkType error rate was 20.4% lower than an English texter hunting and tapping for letters.

The accuracy was even greater for those typing in Mandarin, with the error rate dropping 63.4% when using TalkType.

‘We knew speech recognition is pretty good, so we expected it to be faster, but we were actually quite surprised to find that it was almost three times faster than typing on a keyboard,’ said study co-author Sherry Ruan, a computer science PhD student at Stanford.

The Stanford experiment consisted of over 100 phrases sourced from a standard library of everyday sentences used in text-based research, such as ‘have a good weekend’ and ‘go out for some pizza and beer.’

TalkType also offers the option to type on a standard keyboard for manual entry of more complex words. However, Baidu and the Stanford team are continuing their efforts in speech recognition in the hope of shaking off traditional QWERTY systems forever.

Stanford computer science professor James Landay suggested adding speech to more applications, beyond email and text. ‘You could imagine an interface where you use speech to start and then it switches to a graphical interface that you can touch and control with your finger,’ he noted.

Baidu is reportedly planning to launch an iOS version of the TalkType keyboard app in the near future.


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