Voice activated software lets biologists record fisheries data, hands free!


(SFX)  “Leopard skate, 19.56… set weight 12.25…big mouth sculpin, 12.05…Table, count five…Edit row two…Set species – Pacific cod… Edit row three…Set species, northern rock sole” … (fade out)   

That’s a NOAA Fisheries scientist in a video showing the use of new voice recognition software that helps track data on fish coming over the rails.

During yearly trawl surveys each summer in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, scientists must identify, sort and weigh hundreds of species quickly and accurately. These long-term studies are vital to keeping Alaska’s most productive fisheries sustainable.

Until 2013, scientists wrote the results on paper forms as they worked on deck, then switched to computer tablets to digitally record the data. But salt spray, rain and lots of fish slime caused the tablets to act erratically and freeze up.

The solution?  Voice recognition.

NOAA’s Alison Vijgen is leading a NOAA team that is working with an Ohio-based company called Think A Move, Ltd, or TAM, which specializes in voice recognition software in noisy environments. Together they are developing an application for Alaska’s fish surveys.

Tests so far on three boats using eight different voices have worked on 350 of the most frequently encountered fish species.

The response has been very positive in the testing trials and the voice recognition software will be put through its paces and fine-tuned for real in surveys this summer. And it will include the nearly 3,000 species found in Alaska waters.

The data collection also will expand to recording fish lengths, measure environmental changes and other information, all hands free.