Phones

Voice Drives New Mobile Services

ORLANDO, FLORIDA -- Whatever else you use your cell phone for, you almost certainly speak into it when you make phone calls. So perhaps it's not surprising that several new data services are based on voice input.

At CTIA Wireless 2007, the giant telecom trade show that opens here today, several companies are introducing or showcasing services that use speech recognition technology to turn voice mail into text messages, help you search for nearby merchants, or even create blog entries.

SimulScribe, for example, converts voice messages to text that it then sends via either SMS or e-mail, though with the latter you also get a .wav file of the voice mail as an attachment.

SimulScribe provides unlimited voice-mail storage to its customers, and claims that its voice recognition technology produces transcripts that are more than 90 percent accurate.

The company offers a free trial; after that, you pay $10 for transcripts of 40 voice-mail messages lasting no more than 30 seconds.

Online Call Management

Callwave's new Vtxt service uses automated voice recognition to summarize a call, rather than create full transcripts.

Subscribers get unlimited storage space for their voice mail and a personal Web page on which they can manage, reply to, and search their messages.

Callwave previously offered a Visual Voice mail service that sent customers speech-recognition-based transcripts via text message. But the company found that because SMS messages can't exceed 160 characters, the transcripts often had to be sent in a series of messages--and most customers didn't want to read through all these messages. What they wanted, Callwave says, was enough information to determine whether they needed to return a call immediately or not.

So whenever you miss a call, the new service sends a single text message containing what Callwave describes as the "gist" of the call--caller ID info, the caller's name and the city and state where the call originated, the time of the call, and the subject of the call, as determined by Callwave's software.

Customers who do want to read voice-mail transcripts as SMS messages will still be able to do so: Callwave says it can arrange for voice-mail messages to be forwarded to companies that employ live operators to transcribe spoken words.

Vtxt will be free during a beta period that's expected to begin sometime this spring. Individuals can sign up on Callwave's Web site, but the company hopes to get carriers to offer Vtxt as a private-label service.

Speak and Shop

V-Enable's Mobile411 service.
V-Enable's Mobile 411 service marries voice input with location-based data searches. It requires software installation on a handset; V-Enable says it has clients for BREW, Java, Symbian, and Windows Mobile phones, or about three-quarters of the phones deployed today, according to the company.

Tell the Mobile 411 service where you are and what kind of business you are looking for. The service returns (in this case) a nearby pizza parlor.
Tell the Mobile 411 service where you are and what kind of business you are looking for. The service returns (in this case) a nearby pizza parlor.
With the client installed and launched, you speak your location into the phone, and the service returns screens with additional queries (for example, you can specify that you want to find a pizza parlor). Eventually the application presents you with information about merchants, which could include some preferred sponsor links.

Mobile 411 gives you options on what to do with the location.
Mobile 411 gives you options on what to do with the location.
If you choose the 'See on a Map' option, Mobile 411 will map the location for you.
If you choose the 'See on a Map' option, Mobile 411 will map the location for you.
You can filter results via location or other criteria. Company representatives say the idea is to re-create and improve on traditional directory assistance.

Blogging Via Voice Messaging

The SpinVox service includes voice recognition technology that, like most others, lets you store and manage messages. SpinVox's distinguishing feature is its support for mobile blogging.

You start by registering with SpinVox. You must provide your mobile phone number, a valid e-mail address, and your user account information on Blogger or one of other blogging sites where you wish to post.

After that, to post a blog entry you dial a supplied number and simply speak into the handset for up to 30 seconds. SpinVox converts your speech to text and posts it on your blog; it also e-mails you a copy of your transcript.

The company hopes the technology will be picked up by sites as a promotional vehicle. For the time being, you can try it out for free.

For more CTIA show coverage, go to PC World's Cell Phones and PDAs Info Center.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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