IBM Updates ViaVoice

IBM Voice Systems is updating its ViaVoice for Windows voice recognition software suite, giving your PC the best chance yet to understand clearly what you tell it.

ViaVoice 8.0, which is scheduled to begin shipping September 5, works seamlessly with additional Microsoft applications and is significantly more accurate, according to IBM representatives. Pricing is being announced upon release, but the current versions range from $US37.95 to $US75.95, depending on the edition.

IBM has added support for a Universal Serial Bus microphone, which is particularly good for owners of budget PCs and notebook computers with substandard sound cards, representatives say. IBM claims its USB microphone enhances audio quality and thus reduces error rates by as much as 30 percent.

IBM is also focusing attention on allowing people to control their PCs using voice commands. For example, you can use the ViaVoice Document feature to dictate a fax message. At your instruction, ViaVoice launches a Microsoft Word for Windows fax template that you complete. By using System Navigation macros, you can create personal voice commands to navigate Windows.

Get Talking Faster

IBM says it has cut in half the time it takes to get started using ViaVoice for Windows. To improve accuracy, a new feature called ViaVoice Marks uses text-to-speech technology to let you hear playbacks of audio commands before or after they are executed.

Minimum system requirements vary for particular versions and operating system environments. You need at least a 600-MHz-class microprocessor and 510MB available hard drive space for ViaVoice for Windows Pro Edition running Microsoft Windows Millennium. The ViaVoice Pro only requires a 200-MHz processor when running with Windows 95, 98, or 2000. ViaVoice Personal Edition requires a 266-MHz-class machine and 460MB of free disk space.

For the past year, Lernout & Hauspie's Dragon NaturallySpeaking has been the leading consumer speech recognition software program, with 40 percent of all unit sales, according to PC Data. L&H's second consumer speech recognition product, VoiceXpress, is the second largest seller with 36 percent. IBM ViaVoice trails those two with 21 percent of sales.

Earlier this month, L&H debuted NaturallySpeaking 5.0. The program features a new user interface, a host of usability improvements, and support for Intel's upcoming Pentium 4 microprocessor.

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