Staff Member Featured in Wired for Building JuliusJS, an In-Browser Voice Activation Program

As a Hack Reactor student, Zach Pomerantz became interested in voice activation after coming across a human language processing API called Voice commands, which could substitute for a variety of mouse or keyboard actions, have largely been the domain of mobile devices, with Siri and Google Now the best known examples. Pomerantz started to wonder what it would take to bring voice activation to the browser. Eventually that query would lead him to explore JavaScript at a very deep level, and produce a potentially powerful program that garnered the attention of the coding community and mainstream press.

voice activation, javascript, siri, coding, google now

Zach Pomerantz built JuliusJS, a program to use voice activation in the browser.

Starting as a student, and now a Hack Reactor staff member, Pomerantz built JuliusJS, a system for using voice commands in the browser. JuliusJS is derived from Julius, a preexisting app written in C, and converted it to JavaScript. This involved some unique challenges.

“I was working with very low level JavaScript that you’re not usually exposed to.”

Generally JavaScript coders consider basic syntax such as objects and arrays to be the building blocks of the language, but for this project, Pomerantz had to go a level deeper.

“I ended up using array buffers, which JavaScript usually tries to protect you from,” he describes. Array buffers are similar to arrays, and provide access to 8-bit chunks of memory.

Why work with the code at this elemental level?

“Julius was written in C, so it needs audio at a very specific format, I needed that low level control to coerce it into that format.”

JuliusJS was on the front page of Hacker News for 25 hours. A few days later, Pomerantz was cold called by Wired, and he was featured in this article: Open-source code aims to bring Siri-like control to all apps.

JuliusJS can only take simple commands right now, but it could be the beginning of a much larger project, in which people could control their screens with their voices as much as their hands.

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