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Speaker recognition is the identification of a person from characteristics of voices (voice biometrics). It is also called voice recognition. There is a difference between speaker recognition (recognizing who is speaking) and speech recognition (recognizing what is being said). These two terms are frequently confused, and "voice recognition" can be used for both. In addition, there is a difference between the act of authentication (commonly referred to as speaker verification or speaker authentication) and identification. Finally, there is a difference between speaker recognition (recognizing who is speaking) and speaker diarisation (recognizing when the same speaker is speaking). Recognizing the speaker can simplify the task of translating speech in systems that have been trained on specific person's voices or it can be used to authenticate or verify the identity of a speaker as part of a security process.
Speaker recognition has a history dating back some four decades and uses the acoustic features of speech that have been found to differ between individuals. These acoustic patterns reflect both anatomy (e.g., size and shape of the throat and mouth) and learned behavioral patterns (e.g., voice pitch, speaking style). Speaker verification has earned speaker recognition its classification as a "behavioral biometric".
There are two major applications of speaker recognition technologies and methodologies. If the speaker claims to be of a certain identity and the voice is used to verify this claim, this is called verification or authentication. On the other hand, identification is the task of determining an unknown speaker's identity. In a sense speaker verification is a 1:1 match where one speaker's voice is matched to one template (also called a "voice print" or "voice model") whereas speaker identification is a 1:N match where the voice is compared against N templates.
From a security perspective, identification is different from verification. For example, presenting your passport at border control is a verification process: the agent compares your face to the picture in the document. Conversely, a police officer comparing a sketch of an assailant against a database of previously documented criminals to find the closest match(es) is an identification process.
Speaker verification is usually employed as a "gatekeeper" in order to provide access to a secure system (e.g. telephone banking). These systems operate with the users' knowledge and typically require their cooperation. Speaker identification systems can also be implemented covertly without the user's knowledge to identify talkers in a discussion, alert automated systems of speaker changes, check if a user is already enrolled in a system, etc.
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