Geo-Voice System Gets U.S. Patent

Geologists at Saudi Aramco have a new assistant that helps them solve an old problem in reservoir characterization: how to quickly and efficiently capture quantitative information about the geologic samples they study.

Their new assistant has a name, Geo-Voice, and its own U.S. patent number -- 7,319,961 -- granted this year to Tofig Al-Dhubaib of the Production and Facilities Development Department, and Ibrahim Al-Jallal and Dave Cantrell, both with the EXPEC Advanced Research Center.

Before the advent of Geo-Voice, capturing geological characterization data was a laborious task that came with a geologist's job. As geologists studied rock samples from wells and discovered their characteristics, they would have to remove rubber gloves, wash their hands of the acids and stains they used, and type the results onto the computer. Or they would jot down their results with paper and pencil only to re-enter them into the computer later.

The task was time-consuming and error-prone.

With advanced voice-recognition technology, geologists can "talk their way" through an analysis, dictating their findings to the application, which stores it immediately into a computer.

Geo-Voice is a more natural and efficient way to capture geologic data. It streamlines and improves the geological characterization process and frees the geologists' hands and eyes to better focus on the sample.

While the idea of using voice technology for digitizing geologic data first came about in Saudi Aramco in 1999, complications arose with the special vocabulary, the data-collection process and the lab environment. The inventors found that available technologies were insufficient and had to create an application tailored to their needs.

The application's simplicity is the key to its success. Verbal commands instruct the application, such as "in" for a new data-entry, "out" for playback and "written" for confirmation.

The development of Geo-Voice is the result of cross-discipline and cross-departmental collaboration; Al-Jallal and Cantrell are both geologists, and Al-Dhubaib is a computer and electrical engineer.

Geo-Voice has potential in other disciplines outside of geology. The flexibility of its vocabulary and its ability to work in noisy environments and understand different English accents make it adaptive to fields as diverse as medical pathology and palynology.

If the job requires two hands and a microscope, Geo-Voice can make it simpler.