Smart Factory Voice control for machines

MGA Managing Director Lorenz Arnold (left) with Project Manager Marius Ritter in the development laboratory.
MGA Managing Director Lorenz Arnold (left) with Project Manager Marius Ritter in the development laboratory.

Voice control systems are now indispensable in the private home. Alexa and Co. answer questions and control devices – even when you are not at home. This trend has not yet completely arrived in the industry.

But the specialists at MGA Ingenieurdienstleistungen, based in Würzburg, Germany, want to change that. Managing Director Lorenz Arnold and his team are currently developing a voice input system for machine controls. With this, they want to make it easier for their globally active industrial customers to take the step towards a Smart Factory. After all, it is difficult to teach young users of production systems that they still operate touch panels at work while the devices work on demand at home.

The goal of the Würzburg-based company is an affordable »mainstream application«, meaning that it should be usable in as many industries as possible. Project manager Marius Ritter, who has been in charge of developing the module at MGA since the beginning of April, sees the main advantage of the voice input systems as the high flexibility for the user: »You can move independently and have both hands free«.

Voice control is ideally suited for industries with increased hygiene standards, such as food processing or the manufacture of medicines. It can also help to make work easier for people with physical disabilities. Above all, however, the product is designed for greater convenience, making machines more competitive.

Dialects slow down development

Before the project was launched, the development team had conducted a customer survey to determine interest. This asked for characteristics that the module had to fulfil. The decisive factor is, that the background noise in the production hall does not affect the function.

Speech recognition is tricky in the development process: Due to the different dialects and language colours, the German language in particular is a real challenge. »With the voice input system, it is always a question of avoiding linguistic misunderstandings - the application must function perfectly,« continues Ritter. This also takes into account the current situation of wearing a mouth and nose protector. The prototype should be ready in autumn 2020.