Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

All You Have to Do Is Ask

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

All You Have to Do Is Ask

Article excerpt


The new computer age swaps mouse for mouth, says Chris Partridge

RESEARCH by Mori last week revealed that more than half of us end up shouting at our computers in frustration when they don't work. It seems that if only we had talked to them instead, everything would have been OK.

Voice-control is the next great goal of the techie world, and while it has been overhyped for years, it is getting everywhere, from your palmtop to sophisticated robo-phone operators.

The all-new Windows XP now has voice-control built in. Switch on the microphone and speak the words on the toolbar clearly. You will see the actions performed on screen just as if you had pointed and clicked using the mouse, but it's slow to install and quite limited. More impressive is the Dragon Naturally Speaking 6 Professional, developed by speech pioneers Lernout and Hauspie, which went bust in 2001 and has been resurrected by Scansoft.

After a week of training, we had it about 90 per cent accurate, opening windows, typing and sending emails, but it is still prone to glitches.

Scansoft has also just brought out PDsay, the first voice programme for Pocket PC (see www.scansoft/pdsay. com).

Most of us will first meet the new tech on the phone. In the early days, you had to get words exactly right for anything to work, and be particular about how you talked. They are now powerful enough to recognise many synonyms, which makes them easier to talk to, according to Nick Applegarth, of voice recognition company Nuance.

The Speech Recognition Company (SRC, has developed a demonstration phone-betting system: callers can make bets on upcoming Formula One Grand Prix races. Say virtually what you like, and as long as you come up with a recognisable amount, driver and race, it will take the bet. It recognised: "I'll have [pound]50 on Coulthard at Hockenheim" and, most impressively, transcribed "A monkey on Mika at Monte". "It can cope with a variety of accents and background noise," says Chris Hart, managing director at SRC. "A small percentage of voices are hard to recognise. We call them 'goats' in the trade."

Goats aside, betting is not the only thing you can do simply by asking. …

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