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Mr. Hromadka goes to Redmond

Mon Sep 10, 2001 - 12:39 AM EDT - By James Hromadka

Voice Recognition

As for the future of the Pocket PC, Microsoft is working on voice recognition in a big way. A demonstration was given of Kokanee, a distributed speech recognition platform based on ASP.NET that is due in late 2002. Kokanee integrates voice, websites, and Hailstorm to pull in various users information into a database. The example shown had a user leave a voice message about a home and authorize Passport use. The .NET backend then compared the realter's and user's calendars and scheduled a visit. It was a very interesting demonstration, but a warning bell went off in my head when the voice system said "according to your phone number, you are a Passport member. Please enter your PIN to authorize the realty company to access your information."

Another voice demonstration used 802.11 to let Merlin communicate with the desktop, which processes the voice input and uses the recognition engine in Office XP for processing and converting voice into text. A Dictation powertool was shown that utilizes a PC with Office XP's speech recognition as the server, to process spoken word from Merlin and convert it to text. We got a good laugh when the presenter said "this is a demonstration of Microsoft's speech recognition" and it was converted to "This administration of Microsoft's been tracking mission."

One thing I really did not like about Merlin is the configuration of 802.11 on the device. You must enter all types of information to get it working properly, whereas all I had to do on my Mac was click on the Airport icon and select the network I was connecting to -- that was it. Microsoft has always been hooked on wizards (hence the Merlin name), and it seriously needs a wizard for wireless ethernet configuration.

A demonstration of Microsoft's smart phone (it cannot use the Stinger name anymore) was also given. The smart phone does not have a touch screen; rather it navigates using special hardware buttons, including two context buttons and a 5-direction Dpad. Text entry when looking up numbers was pretty easy; it doesn't require the user to press a number several times when doing a search, such as 777=S. Instead, just type the name out and the smartphone searches all combinations: 782=sta for a name that was Stanley. One caveat of the smartphone is that prior Pocket PC applications must be recompiled in order to work on the smartphone. It is a different initiative than the Pocket PC, and is in a way similar to what Handspring is doing with the Visor and Treo.

Parting Thoughts >>


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