University of New Haven students create prototype voice recognition filing program with DocuWare
WEST HAVEN >> When it comes time to graduate, most college students leave school with a diploma, whatever accumulated possessions they can cram into a vehicle and perhaps some debt.
But four students in University of New Haven Assistant Professor Frank Breitinger’s Senior Design Class just finished the year, and in three of their four cases graduated, with a voice recognition filing program design credit in their portfolios — done for a real-world company that may well use it to change the way businesses do their filing in the future.
Not bad for three seniors and a junior who are just getting started as computer engineers.
Breitinger, a native of Germany who is co-director of UNH’s Cyber Forensics Research and Education Group, said the school’s year-long project, usually done with an industry partner, is “more realistic” than just “me making up a story” and having students design something that won’t ever be used.
In this case, graduating seniors Arianna Conti of Brewster, N.Y., Donald Sbabo and Joseph Ricci, both of North Haven, and junior Samuel Perreault of Providence, R.I. were hooked up with DocuWare, a Wallingford company that designs and sells document management systems and software.
Eric Blair, DocuWare’s director of research and development, described the software they came up with as “kind of ‘Siri for DocuWare’” that allows customers to simply request a document from their computers by doing the equivalent of inputting search terms simply by talking.
The challenge is, making the software do that is a lot more complicated than it might seem from the outside.
But they must have done something right. The project recently won a prize, taking third place among 59 entries for a senior research poster at a Poster Expo put on by the Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges - Northeastern Region in Albany, N.Y.
“This is the second year we’ve worked with UNH,” Blair said. “Basically, we have an idea for something that interests us” and “we offer that idea” for a senior project.
Two of Blair’s colleagues — including his boss, DocuWare Vice President of Product and Quality Jon Langdon — are graduates of University of New Haven’s master’s degree in business program.
According to Blair, for most customers, “a version of our software runs in the cloud and you access it through your browser.”
The students began their work in September and only recently finished it.
Conti, Sbabo and Ricci graduated this past Saturday.
“I think we’re very happy about the way it turned out,” said Perreault. “It accomplishes what we meant it to do” as a “proof of concept.”
But Sbabo, who will be going to grad school at UNH next year, said the software is “definitely not” ready to go to market.
“It’s basically a prototype,” said Blair. “We look at the design choices that they made, and we may make our own design choices.”
At the start, “we understood we had some technical requirements,” including that the software must be written in the computer language C# and had to be able to interface with DocuWare’s systems via an application programming interface, said Perrault, the only one of the four who will still be a UNH undergrad next school year.
Coming up with a solution that would enable software to successfully respond to voice commands required the students to use pretty much everything they learned in school, said Conti, who will go to work soon after graduation at Lockheed-Martin in Owego, N.Y.
Ricci will go to work for Lodestone Security in Stamford.
“For DocuWare, we had to go through an entirely different language” from what they’d used before, Conti said. “I mean, I’ve never used C# before.”
She also usually uses a Mac computer and had to do this project on a PC because that’s usually what DocuWare’s clients use.
The most difficult thing, “was being able to break apart the sentence that someone just spoke” into individual search terms, she said.
To accomplish their goal, the students chose a solution that uses Microsoft’s Bing speech detection technology. Their software establishes a connection to the Bing server “and Bing handles the voice recognition” end of it, Conti said.
The students had worked together previously in various combinations, but never all four working together on the same project, they said.