Predicting the future is a difficult thing – according to the comics that I read as a child, we'd all be flying around in hover cars, be waited on by robots and living on Mars by now. I can't begin to tell you how disappointed I am that none of this has come true yet.
Computers are one area where huge leaps and bounds were forecast and that has happened to an extent – just not in the areas that we were expecting. While computers have become vastly more powerful than most people could have imagined thirty years ago, the way we control them has remained basically the same.
Speech recognition has long been touted as a replacement to the traditional and long-standing mouse/keyboard combination, but it's never really lived up to the promise. Even with today's computing power, current speech recognition programmes still struggle to keep up with the spoken word, and most require a quiet environment to work properly – which most modern-day schools and offices most certainly are not.
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This need for a quiet environment makes voice control in games unlikely – if anything, a gaming environment is likely to be noisier than an office environment. Imagine our surprise, then, when Ubisoft announced that the next game in the Tom Clancy franchise would be voice-controlled.
The developer, Ubisoft Shanghai, has cheated a little though. Rather than use the software to recognise actual words, it is used to recognise the sounds that make up those words – the system used looks out for particular sounds that go to make up a word. This cunningly gets around the need for a large amount of training generally required with standard speech recognition software, and also gets around the problem of accents: the main sounds of a word are essentially the same, regardless of your accent. The problem has been simplified even further by only recognising a handful of words – about eighty or ninety, according to Ubisoft.
We've already taken a look at Tom Clancy's Endwar, and now it's time find out whether speech recognition in a game works, or whether it's all hype.
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Tom Clancy's Endwar takes place in 2020 in a world on the verge of all-out war. After nuclear war in the Middle East, Russia becomes the world's dominant oil and gas supplier, and the additional money goes towards increasing its military might and dominance on the world stage.
European countries band together to form an independent European Federation – although Daily Mail readers will be happy to note that the UK declines membership – and the relationship with the US falters. The US in the meantime builds a massive space station capable of deploying marines to any location in the world within 90 minutes. Needless to say, both Russia and the European Federation aren't happy, and the world moves closer to all-out global war.