Skip to main content

Challenges in Adopting Speech Control for Assistive Robots

Part of the Advanced Technologies and Societal Change book series (ATSC)


This paper presents a pragmatic report about experiences gathered with the speech command interface of HOBBIT, a mobile assistive robot intended to support older persons in their private home. An outline of the associated problems and challenges in distant speech recognition is given. Far field detection of user’s voice commands is necessary due to user acceptance considerations. A commercially available automatic speech recognition (ASR) serves as base. Measurements of directivity of several microphones were done and ASR performance with a small vocabulary showed low word error rates (WER) in different acoustic environments: anechoic room (0 %), free space (2.6 %), AAL room (3.8 %) when using a small array microphone with beam forming. Further explorative trials in a free space setting with a second (disturbing) signal source resulted in a WER of 3.9 % (two voices) and 11.1 % (one voice and radio news) compared to 2.6 % in case of only one speaker.


  • AAL
  • Socially assistive robots
  • Speech recognition
  • HRI

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-11866-6_1
  • Chapter length: 12 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
USD   89.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-319-11866-6
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   119.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   139.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


  1. Accessed 30 Nov 2013

  2. Feil-Seifer, D., Mataric, M.J.: Defining socially assistive robotics. In: International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics, pp. 465–468 (2005)

    Google Scholar 

  3. Dautenhahn, K.: Socially intelligent robots: dimensions of human-robot interaction. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B Biol. Sci. 362(1480), 679–704 (2007)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  4. Tapus, A., Tapus, C., Mataric, M.J.: User—robot personality matching and assistive robot behaviour adaptation for post-stroke rehabilitation therapy. Intell. Serv. Robot. 1, 169–183 (2008)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  5. Johnson, D.O., Cuijpers, R., Juola, J.F., Torta, E., Simonov, M., Frisiello, A., Bazzani, M., Yan, W., Weber, C., Wermter, S., Meins, N., Oberzaucher, J., Panek, P., Edelmayer, G., Mayer, P., Beck, C.: Socially assistive robots: a comprehensive approach to extending independent living. Int. J. Soc. Robot. doi:10.1007/s12369-013-0217-8

  6. Fischinger, D., Einramhof, P., Wohlkinger, W., Papoutsakis, K., Mayer, P., Panek, P., Koertner, T., Hofmann, S., Argyros, A., Vincze, M., Weiss, A., Gisinger, C.: HOBBIT—the mutual care robot. In: Assistance and Service Robotics in a Human Environment Workshop in Conjunction with IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Tokyo, November 2013

    Google Scholar 

  7. Mayer, P., Beck, C., Panek, P.: Examples of multimodal user interfaces for socially assistive robots in Ambient Assisted Living environments. In: IEEE 3rd International Conference on Cognitive Infocommunications (CogInfoCom), 2012 2–5 Dec 2012, Kosice, Slovakia, pp. 401–406

    Google Scholar 

  8. Mayer, P., Panek, P.: A social assistive robot in an intelligent environment. In: Abstract Book BMT2013 Graz, Biomedizinische Technik, Graz, Austria, pp. 219–220 (2013)

    Google Scholar 

  9. DIRHA—Distant-speech Interaction for Robust Home Applications. (2013). Accessed 10 Oct 2013

  10. SCENIC—Acoustic Systems to Take Advantage of the Additional Information Provided by the Environment’s Acoustic Response. (2013). Accessed 22 Sept 2013

  11. Omologo, M.: Multi-microphone signal processing for distant-speech interaction. In: HVASS INRIA Sophia Antipolis (2012)

    Google Scholar 

  12. HOBBIT Deliverable D1.4: Report on the results of the PT1 user trials, HOBBIT consortium, May 2013

    Google Scholar 

  13. Wölfel, M., McDonough, J.: Distant Speech Recognition. Wiley, New York (2009)

    Google Scholar 

  14. Petrick, R.: Robuste Spracherkennung unter raumakustischen Umgebungsbedingungen, Dissertation, TU Dresden (2009)

    Google Scholar 

  15. Moritz, N., Goetze, S., Appell, J.-E.: Ambient voice control for a personal activity and household assistant. In: Wichert, R., Eberhardt, B. (eds.) Ambient Assisted Living—Advanced Technologies and Societal Change, Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS), No. 978-3-642-18166-5, pp. 63–74. Springer Science, Berlin (2011)

    Google Scholar 

  16. Fügen, C., Gieselmann, P., Holzapfel, H., Kraft, F.: Natural Human Robot Communication (2006)

    Google Scholar 

  17. Blomberg, M.: Automatic Speech Recognition, Presentation, KTH, 2012. Accessed 22 Sept 2013

  18. Andrea Superbeam Array Microphone Speech Recognition Performance Using Microsoft Office XP, 2002. Accessed 10 Oct 2013

  19. Panek, P., Mayer, P., Edelmayer, G., Beck, C., Zagler, W.L.: A laboratory for AAL applications. In: Abstract Book BMT2013 Graz, Austria, pp. 217–218 (2013)

    Google Scholar 

Download references


The research leading to these results has received partial funding from the European Community’s FP7 under grant agreement No. 288146. We also would like to thank the Federal Institute of Technology—TGM, Department Acoustics and Building Physics, in Vienna, for their support.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Paul Panek .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2015 Springer International Publishing Switzerland

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Panek, P., Mayer, P. (2015). Challenges in Adopting Speech Control for Assistive Robots. In: Wichert, R., Klausing, H. (eds) Ambient Assisted Living. Advanced Technologies and Societal Change. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-11865-9

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-11866-6

  • eBook Packages: EngineeringEngineering (R0)