Gadgets That Listen

Posted by Sam Churchill on

The NY Times reviews Gadgets That Listen and Obey (Blog Runner). They highlight Vlingo Corporation, an 18-month-old start-up in Cambridge, Mass., that is selling services to cellular carriers and other software companies that want to give their customers the ability to let their mouths do the walking — and the searching.

Vlingo’s service lets people talk naturally, rather than making them use a limited number of set phrases. Dave Grannan, the company’s chief executive, demonstrated the Vlingo Find application by asking his phone for a song by Mississippi John Hurt (try typing that with your thumbs), for the location of a local bakery and for a Web search for a consumer product. It was all fast and efficient.

The Find application is in the beta test phase at AT&T and Sprint. Consumers who use certain cellphones can download the free beta application.

Another start-up, Yap, based in Charlotte, N.C., is running a beta test of its service, which is similar to Vlingo’s but already has text messaging. Igor and Victor Jablokov, Yap’s co-founders, decided to start the company because they saw their teenage sister text-messaging while in a car. Jablokov says cellular companies tell him in meetings that two-thirds of their teenage customers have either sent or read a text message while behind the wheel.

Big companies are also attracted to this market. Nuance started its Nuance Voice Control system last August, the same month that Vlingo’s appeared. Nuance’s system is in use at Sprint and Rogers Communications and can be downloaded to 66 models of hand-held phones, with many more on the way.

Microsoft is a significant potential competitor, thanks in part to its purchase of TellMe Networks last March. TellMe offers a speech-driven search application for cellphones that is available to customers of AT&T and Sprint.

TellMe’s system is built-in on the new Mysto phone from Helio (right) and is the engine for 1800call411, a free directory information service.

Speech recognition, already used in high-end G.P.S. systems and luxury cars from Cadillac and Lexus, is now spreading to less expensive systems and cars like the Ford Sync. Sync was developed by Microsoft and Ford, and is based on Nuance technology.

Then there’s SimulScribe, a New York company that is one of several businesses using speech recognition to convert voice mail into e-mail.

James R. Glass, a principal research scientist at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at M.I.T., says speech technology “is going to end up everywhere speech can be useful.”

OnStar (Wikipedia and HowStuffWorks), the telematics company inside General Motors, has nearly 5 million subscribers. With the system, drivers push a button and talk to consultants to report an accident or unlock a door. People also can make cellular calls from a built-in voice-activated mobile phone (from Verizon) if they sign up with a program.

Microsoft’s service, called Sync, would provide competition to OnStar through Ford. It connects through Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, allowing drivers to make calls or access music by voice request. The system has a small monitor in the dash, which can also receive and “read” text messages from your cell phone aloud.

C/Net shows how Microsoft’s Sync works (video). NPR tested Voice Command on the BMWi 7 Series (audio) using an earlier version of Microsoft’s Voice Command.

It needed a little work.

Dashtop mobile equipment is now on the threshold of becoming a full-duplex multimedia connection with Mobile WiMAX.

Related DailyWireless articles include; Analog Cellular to Shut Down,Microsoft Vrs OnStar, 3-D Traffic/Weather Maps,Cellular Navigation/Tracking, Mobile Voice Search, Mobile Search War, Motorola: It’s All About ME and Navigation by Cell Phone.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Sunday, February 3rd, 2008 at 2:12 pm .

Leave a Reply