L&H, Nat Semi to Develop Voice-Activated Devices

Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products Inc. (L&H) and National Semiconductor Corp. plan to work together to develop information appliances that utilize a variety of voice technologies, the companies said yesterday.

If the two companies are successful in their development efforts, consumers will be able to carry out voice-activated computing on appliances such as automobile PCs, handheld computers and National Semiconductor's Internet access device, WebPad. Such appliances can be made smaller when they do not require a keyboard for data input.

The two companies signed a agreement this week promising to bring together L&H's know-how in the areas of speech recognition, speech compression and text-to-speech technology -- which allows text to be read aloud with a human-sounding voice -- with National Semiconductor's expertise in silicon and system design and integration, according to an L&H statement released yesterday.

L&H gave no time frame for when such devices might be market-ready, and officials at the Belgium-based company could not be immediately reached for comment.

After announcing the sale of its PC processor business to Via Technologies Inc. earlier this month, National Semiconductor is focusing its efforts on multi-function chips suitable for a variety of devices including set-top boxes, Windows-based terminals, and handheld devices, the company said.

Last month, the Santa Clara, California-based company unveiled the first member of a new family of processors called Geode, which bring functions such as system logic, graphics and MPEG video decompression together on a single chip. As part of this week's agreement with L&H, National Semiconductor will design future Geode processors to support speech processing technology, the company said yesterday.

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