Could Voice-Driven Commands Become a Reality in CAD Design Work?

Could Voice-Driven Commands Become a Reality in CAD Design Work?

Published by - Admin On December 26, 2019

The idea of interacting with computers by issuing voice commands seemed far-fetched some time ago. The idea appeared as science fiction in the popular Star Trek series more than two decades ago. However, once an idea is not a surprise anymore, it’s a practical reality today.

Today, smartphones and tablets are doing a remarkable job of accepting and correctly executing voice commands. Also, it has become commonplace for automobile GPS devices to issue accurate voice commands for navigation. This advancement in computer implementation of voice technology is remarkable. One area that has benefited tremendously from voice technology is the very challenging field of CAD design work, and this will be the focus of this article.

Voice-enabled CAD systems

As voice-controlled assistants continue to pervade more areas of our daily lives, it comes as no surprise that voice-enabled CAD systems are now making a play. While the difference between using voice assistants to turn on your lights and expecting a voice-enabled CAD to make a difference in your engineering design is quite a leap, there are many ways voice-enabled CAD systems can make your design work more efficient and effective.

Voice to cad
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For instance, most CAD programs have immense learning curves thanks to the overwhelming number of features, tools, and buttons that come into play. You may know what you want to do on the CAD screen but have to stumble for tens of seconds or even minutes at a time to find the right button to start the process you want. While that may not sound like much, for a design project, it will certainly add up. Enter voice-enabled CAD systems, though, which can already allow you to use voice commands to initiate certain tools: snap to model; start the vector tool; undo the last action. Doing all of these actions as fast as you can say them out loud may change the speed to which you work more than you can imagine.

Text-to-speech Conversion

Another area where voice-driven commands can change your CAD modeling work is via text to speech conversion. This technology has been floating around for years, but it’s advanced to the point that its speed and accuracy can be utilized in new and exciting ways.

CAD voice tools, for example, can allow you to record and transcribe any notes or thoughts you have on the design via text to speech conversion. You can use this type of voice-driven tool to leave detailed notes in your CAD file for the colleague or client who will be accessing it next. Or you can use text to speech to narrate and move through the design in a much quicker fashion than you would have via having to type it all out.

Verb-based CAD Semantic Search for Natural Voice-enabled CAD

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When implementing voice-driven commends to CAD work, there are many key tools and strategies to keep in mind:

  • Verb Phrase (VP) In voice CAD, a verb phrase is defined as the part of the sentence that delivers information about the ensuing command. If you told your voice-enabled CAD to ‘draw a rectangle,’ the verb was ‘draw,’ and you just used a verb phrase to draw that rectangle.
  • Sentence command Going beyond just the verb phrase is the sentence command, which gets more complicated. Rather than focus on a single action word and the target object, sentence commands take a whole sequence of words to express a full thought and intention. In the example “Rotate this circle about this axis,” you’ve now added more intent and specification. It takes more advanced voice-driven CAD programs to understand this command, but when it makes the impact on your work will be that much more powerful.
  • Targeted Word Distilling (TWD) For the voice-driven commands to be effective, the processor has to look for the targeted important words. In the previous example, “rotate this circle about this axis” has a lot of targeted words that are instructing specific actions. If the example was, instead, “rotate this circle about this axis, please,” then the word please isn’t directing any of the action, and it would not be distilled as one of the targeted words.
  • Eliminating the use of mouse The ability to use voice-driven commands is revolutionizing CAD and what engineering and architectural design can be all about. But it’s not just about making your CAD work more efficient or even the laziness of voice control, but by reducing the reliance on a mouse to complete CAD work, you’re opening the door to allow disabled people more access to CAD programs. So, while there’s plenty of work to be done before voice-driven CAD is as easy, natural, and effective as traditional mouse-driven CAD, a lot of exciting work is going done in this area.
  • Making the interface more natural Last, but not least, the use of voice-driven commands in the CAD space can serve to make the interface of CAD programs more natural and less cluttered. Because CAD programs are so complex and powerful these days, there are hundreds upon hundreds of buttons and tabs to click, and it makes learning how to use CAD quite difficult for a novice. But 3D modeling should harken back to the days of modeling with clay where anyone can look at it and be able to create the shape and model they’re imagining. Voice commands in the CAD world are working to bring that concept back and reduce the barriers to entry.

What benefits could voice technology provide for CAD design work?

We are already familiar with benefits that voice technology already provides for smartphones, tablets and for voice activated web search engines. If voice technology could be implemented in CAD design work, these are some of the potential benefits:

  • In diagnostic medicine, a physician or radiologist can issue voice commands and obtain results from CADx analysis of medical images.
  • Reviewing CAD design work could become a matter of a design panel or team querying a completed design and asking the CAD workstation to implement design changes. This would provide significant changes in time and cost, and it would provide more robust designs.
  • Adding, removing, querying or updating information in a design database could be accomplished with voice commands.
  • Ability to automate routine design tasks which can be invoked without room for error.

What Challenges Existed in Using Voice Technology for CAD Design Work?

Several challenges should be overcome before voice technology is implemented in CAD design work. Consider the important and challenging issues listed below:

  • There should be no room for errors that adversely impact the accuracy required for CAD design work. It is one thing to have a smartphone or tablet respond with reasonable accuracy to voice commands. However, it is a completely different matter for a CAD design workstation to respond accurately to voice commands. If a smartphone commits a homophonic error by interpreting the command “Call Bill” as “Call Will,” it is not an intolerable error. However, if a CAD workstation interprets the command “raise two to the fifth power” as “erase two to the fifth power,” the consequences could be disastrous.
    This means that apart from merely interpreting and differentiating between similar sounding words, the CAD workstation should discern the correct context and meaning of what is said.
  • It is necessary that extraneous noise is isolated or filtered out. Because CAD designers usually work in teams and near one another, there will usually be background noise, which the CAD workstation should eliminate. Until extraneous noise can be reliably isolated or eliminated, it might be necessary for interactive voice commands to be issued via microphones and headsets.
  • It is necessary that extraneous noise is isolated or filtered out. Because CAD designers usually work in teams and near one another, there will usually be background noise, which the CAD workstation should eliminate. Until extraneous noise can be reliably isolated or eliminated, it might be necessary for interactive voice commands to be issued via microphones and headsets.
    From this brief list, it is clear that voice technology which CAD design requires should be more sophisticated than merely matching and interpreting words. It is necessary that CAD oriented voice technology should be interactive and should provide a means to verify and test understanding before executing voice commands.

Which companies could provide voice technology for CAD design work?

Because of recent advances in voice technology, it is worthwhile to pay attention to companies who provide voice technology, and whether they are capable of overcoming challenges which voice-driven CAD design work demands. The companies that we shall look at are Nuance®, Microsoft®, and Google®. We shall highlight features in voice technology that these companies provide in the table shown below.

FeatureNuance Microsoft Google
Ability to distinguish between the beginning and the end of a speech Very good Unknown Reasonable
Ability to remove background noise Very good Unknown Unknown
Ability to match the combination of sounds in a spoken phrase with possible sound combinations in a library   Very good Good Good
Ability to dynamically update the voice database Very good Unknown Good
Implements speech as typed information Very good Good Good
Ability to manage voice profiles Very good Good Good
Accuracy and speed Very good Good Very good
Use of neural networks Yes Yes Yes

From this table, it is apparent that voice technology needs to make significant improvements before it becomes viable for implementation in CAD design work. The most significant improvement which is required is almost 100 percent accuracy in interpreting spoken words in the correct context. It will also be necessary to provide an interactive voice environment for verifying that voice commands were interpreted correctly. Furthermore, implementation of voice technology for CAD design work will require a dedicated and powerful processor as an integral part of a CAD workstation.


It will be of tremendous benefit to have voice-driven commands implemented in CAD design work. Because of the technical challenges to be overcome in making it happen, this technological feat does not seem likely in the immediate future. If major CAD companies such as Autodesk® and Dassault Systems® become interested in adopting voice-driven commands in design work, it is just a matter of time before voice technology becomes a reality in CAD design work.

Contact IndiaCADworks for your CAD modeling requirements.


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