Speech recognition systems allow human – machine communication to acquire an intuitive nature that approaches the simplicity of inter – human communication. Small vocabulary speech recognition is a subset of the overall speech recognition problem, where only a small number of words need to be recognized. Speaker independent small vocabulary recognition can find significant applications in field equipment used by military personnel. Such equipment may typically be controlled by a small number of commands that need to be given quickly and accurately, under conditions where delicate manual operations are difficult to achieve. This type of application could hence significantly benefit by the use of robust voice operated control components, as they would facilitate the interaction with their users and render it much more reliable in times of crisis. This paper presents current challenges involved in attaining efficient and robust small vocabulary speech recognition. These challenges concern feature selection, classification techniques, speaker diversity and noise effects. A state machine approach is presented that facilitates the voice guidance of different equipment in a variety of situations.

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