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unr_deepspeech - Speech Recognition for Robots

The unr_deepspeech package is a ROS node providing speech-to-text for robots. It does this by wrapping Mozilla's TensorFlow implementation of Baidu's DeepSpeech network for speech recognition. The system works entirely offline, and provides high-quality transcriptions using pretrained neural networks available from Mozilla. It also aims to be easy to install, with minimal configuration required to produce acceptable transcriptions.

The package has been tested in ROS Kinetic and ROS Melodic.


To install this package, you must first have installed the Python DeepSpeech packaage. This can be done through pip using either:

pip install deepspeech


pip install deepspeech-gpu

depending on whether or not you have a GPU available on your system. If you have a TensorFlow-compatible GPU, we recommend that you use it.


Installing this package follows the normal ROS conventions. Download the package to a ROS workspace, download a pretrained model into the model/ directory, and run catkin build.

Getting a model.

To get started you will probably want to use a pretrained model. Mozilla provides a model that achieves excellent performance on spoken English. To download that model, run the following command from anywhere in your filesystem:

wget -O - | tar xvfz -

After this command runs, copy the contents of the resulting models folder into the empty model folder in the package. Your directory tree should then look like this:

├── CMakeLists.txt
├── data
├── model
│   ├── alphabet.txt
│   ├── lm.binary
│   ├── output_graph.pb
│   ├── output_graph.pbmm
│   ├── output_graph.rounded.pb
│   ├── output_graph.rounded.pbmm
│   └── trie
├── package.xml
├── src
│   ├──
│   ├──
│   ├──
│   └──
└── srv
    └── Listen.srv

4 directories, 17 files

Once the model is downloaded, you should be ready to use the system.



To use the system, first start the server. Make sure a roscore is running, and then in a terminal where you have already sourced setup.bash for your workspace, run the command

rosrun unr_deepspeech

Now you can use the service.

In addition to raw transcriptions, the server supports correcting the transcription using a dictionary file. To use this feature, create a file in the package directory containing the list of words you want to allow the system to output, one word per line. Then, before starting the server, give the file name to the ROS parameter server by running this command:

rosparam set /unr_deepspeech/dictionary dictionary.txt

If line-by-line comparison is preferred to word-by-word comparison, there is also a commands parameter which will translate each line output from DeepSpeech into the most similar command.

rosparam set /unr_deepspeech/commands command-dictionary.txt

Now start the server. The server will list the full path of the file, or produce an error if it can't find the file.


Once the server is running, you can use the ROS service interface to transcribe audio files. We provide a demo that shows how to use the client code. To use the demo, run the command

rosrun unr_deepspeech

This will listen for audio through your microphone, write the audio to a wav file, and then send the filename to the server for transcription. The server will then send back a response containing the recognized text, which the client will print before exiting. Running the above command will attempt to use what your system considers to be the "default" audio input device. To get a list of available devices, run this command:

rosrun unr_deepspeech -1

This will print a list of devices and their indices and then exit. If, for example, you had a microphone listed as device 14, then you could ask the client to use that device by running the following command:

rosrun unr_deepspeech 14

If the device cannot generate audio in the format required by DeepSpeech, the client will print an error and then exit.

Caveats, Requirements, and Notes

We have found that installing deepspeech-gpu may not work if you are running an old version of cuda. The best way to avoid this is to run on a system using cuda 10.

The Mozilla DeepSpeech model requires single-channel audio and a 16 kHz sample rate. The client program gives an example of how to convert audio into this format using Python. If you generate your own audio through another source and run into issues, check that your audio data is compatible with DeepSpeech's format requirements.

At the moment, the client and server have to be running on the same machine. This requirement will be lifted once we transition from using wav files on disk to streaming audio in memory.

The performance of the system (both in terms of speed and transcription quality) depends heavily on the quality of your microphone. During development, we tested the system with builtin laptop microphones and a Nessie Blue USB microphone, and found that the USB microphone substantially outperformed the laptop microphone. If you have trouble getting decent transcriptions, we recommend testing with a better microphone.

This package was written by Bryson Lingenfelter, Nate Thom, Sybille Horcholle, and Richard Kelley.


ROS node to use Mozilla's DeepSpeech on robots.




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