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07.17.17 | 3:54 pm

Mozilla is crowdsourcing a massive speech-recognition system

From Amazon's Alexa to Apple's Siri, speech recognition and response are becoming mainstays of how we interact with computers, apps, and internet services. But the technology is owned by giant corporations. Now the Mozilla Foundation, maker of the free Firefox browser, is recruiting volunteers to train an open-source speech recognition system.

Project Common Voice recruits web surfers to spend a couple minutes reading sentences aloud and/or listening to other people's recordings to check their accuracy. It's a very minimal contribution for volunteers: Just read three sentences to help the system understand what everyday speech sounds like. No need to go to a soundproof room or get a high-quality microphone. "We want the audio quality to reflect the audio quality a speech-to-text engine will see in the wild," reads the projects FAQ. "This teaches the speech-to-text engine to handle various situations—background talking, car noise, fan noise—without errors.

Mozilla is out to collect at least 10,000 hours to train a database that anyone can use for free. "Developers can build amazing things—from real-time translators to voice-enabled administrative assistants," says Mozilla, adding that speech-to-text will also be included in future versions of its Firefox browser.