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A sampling of some of AT&T's top research projects, highlighted at the company's Innovation Showcase in New York
AT&T researchers have created hardware that can identify triggers and check the quality of air with the goal of preventing asthma attacks. A sensor called Asthma Triggers monitors the environment for harmful chemicals and allergens, which can warn a patient if a location is not safe. The sensor has Zigbee wireless connectivity, and can send information to a mobile device or other locations using AT&T's cloud service. AT&T researcher Katie Hanson, an asthma patient herself, calls the sensor a small step in reducing instances of asthma attacks and hospital visits.
AT&T's Eco Space Mobile app is a comprehensive resource center for the environmentally conscious. Besides tracking their carbon footprint, users can locate farmers markets and recycling centers, and also get a live feed of environmental news.
AT&'s SafeCell Enterprise provides a suite of services that can keep drivers safe. For example, SafeCell can use location-based services to track whether drivers are speeding, and ask them to slow down. This service is especially helpful if a vehicle is carrying electronics, which can be easily damaged. The service can also disable text messaging, email and social networking, which can be distracting to drivers. This service is targeted at enterprises.
A mobile app called Good Times can read brain waves to filter phone calls and reroute them directly to voicemail. If a person is meditating or very busy, Good Times can reroute the call, cutting user invention. Brain waves are collected by a headset and sent to a smartphone via Bluetooth, after which the app uses algorithms to analyze the status of a brain. The app is the brainchild of Ruggero Scorcioni (pictured), CEO and founder of Brainyno, who said the technology could be useful in call centers, where calls could be rerouted to relaxed agents.
The StoreEBook app allows a tablet or smartphone to automatically read a children's book in multiple tones and voices. Using AT&T's Text-to-Speech technology, the app can express surprise, fear, sadness, authority and more. E-readers can narrate in just one voice, but AT&T researcher Taniya Mishra hopes to enhance the experience with more groundbreaking work in speaker recognition, speech synthesis, expressions and voice-enabled search.
AT&T is trying to improve translation service by enabling real-time multilingual translation. Researchers showed off new AT&T Translator technology that brings simultaneous real-time speech-to-text translation to different languages. For example, if a presenter in a group meeting is speaking in English, the technology can translate to Spanish, French and other languages at the same time for the benefit of other group attendees.
Subscribers to AT&T's U-verse service can use the Easy Remote App as a remote control to surf channels and find programs. The company is tweaking the voice search capabilities on the app, which is iPhone and iPad compatible. AT&T plans to enhance the app with custom TV guides, parental controls and also to deliver more accurate search results. The app will also be expanded to other mobile operating systems, hopefully Android.
The Visual Search app uses visuals or audio as search terms. It's like the popular Shazam app, but instead of searching for a singer, Visual Search could identify the artist of a painting, for example. It could also help identify famous monuments, or return search results of relevant or similar structures. Image search will become popular as more pictures are taken with smartphones, said Zhu Lin, an AT&T researcher.
Tired of typing four digits to unlock a smartphone? AT&T has a new solution called "voice biometrics," in which saying specific words could help unlock a phone or log into an email account. A log-in screen will ask you to say some words written on the screen, and will verify the accent and tone with its security records. Strong authentication, be it through voice biometrics or face recognition, is key to securing mobile devices, said Amanda Stent, a computational linguistics researcher at AT&T Labs. She believes speech has a big future in how humans interact with mobile devices.