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The technique of dynamic time warping (DTW) is relied on heavily in isolated word recognition systems. The advantage of using DTW is that reliable time alignment between reference and test patterns is obtained. The disadvantage of using DTW is the heavy computational burden required to find the optimal time alignment path. Several alternative procedures have been proposed for reducing the computation of DTW algorithms. However, these alternative methods generally suffer from a loss of optimality or precision in defining points along the alignment path. In this paper we propose another alternative procedure for implementing a DTW algorithm. The procedure is based on the well-known class of techniques for a directed search through a grid to find the "shortest" path. An adaptive version of a directed search procedure is defined and shown to be capable of obtaining the exact DTW solution with reduced computation of distances but with increased overhead. It is shown that for machines where the time for distance computation is significantly larger than the time for combinatorics and overhead, a potential gain in speed of up to 3 : 1 can be realized with the directed search algorithm. Formal comparison of the directed search algorithm with a standard DTW method, in an isolated word recognition test, showed essentially no loss in recognition accuracy when the parameters of the directed search were selected to realize the 3:1 reduction in distance computation.