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Opera Promises Voice-Operated Web Browser 352

unassimilatible writes "Opera's latest browser talks and listens, according to AP. The new browser incorporates IBM's ViaVoice technology, enabling the computer to ask what the user wants and "listen" to the request. "Hi. I am your browser. What can I do for you?" asked a laptop with the demonstration versions of the browser. The message can be personalized, such as greeting users by name. The computer learns to recognize users' voices, accents and inflections by having them read a list of words into a microphone. Opera plans to first launch an English version of the voice browser for computers running the Windows operating system. Versions for other systems, including handhelds, will follow. Opera's press release has more details, including Opera's hopes that people will adopt this technology for presentations - and to replace PowerPoint."
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Opera Promises Voice-Operated Web Browser

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  • by rabbot ( 740825 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:24PM (#8649159)
    "Computer...Take me to the pr0n!!"
  • by frazzydee ( 731240 ) * on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:25PM (#8649161)
    This sounds like a fun thing to play around with, but I certainly don't see myself using it as a normal web browser. I'll most likely stick with my keyboard.
    as for their statement about it being a replacement for powerpoint, I don't think that this will fly either unless they either: a) find a company to make a powerpoint alternative which saves to html files b) make the aforementioned software themselves. Even if they accomplished that, people's stupidity and ignorance has proven time and time again that whether microsoft's software is better, worse, or just as good as its competitors- people will buy microsoft's software instead of others. Look at, mozilla (most people use ie)/opera/konquer/galeon/netscape/etc, linux, amd a bunch of other superior software. Maybe a couple could be explained (linux often involves use of the command line interface, netscape is slower to load (even though ie cheats by loading some of the program at startup time)), but most of it is due to a problem which exists somewhere between the keyboard and the chair. Besides, I would find a remote control a better option than speech, since a remote control wouldn't force me to scream "NEXT SLIDE" across the room like an idiot before it recognizes what I'm saying. It would also be much smoother to just press a button on a remote control.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:31PM (#8649254)
      Don't think of it as a replacement for your current browser on your current desktop. This seems as if it would be a nice start to bettering the functionality of a web browser on a computer too small for a standard keyboard... i.e. pda and smart phones.
      • I say heck with PDA's and cell phones. I want this for wall mounted flat panels. So I can holler at it for while in the kitchen with my hands messy. Or in the basement in dire need of or whatever when I'm trying to prove (erroneously) that I can fix ANYTHING.

        So many times while putzing around the house or driving I've wanted to bark out a command a la Star Trek and having Google answer me. Very cool.

        Although if it chimes in with - "It sounds like you are trying to browse th
    • by mahler3 ( 577336 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:31PM (#8649264)
      I don't see myself using a voice-commanded that much, either... heck, I haven't even programmed the voice dialing capabilities on my new cell phone.

      That being said, this will likely make life better for people with severe spinal injuries or others with limited use of their hands. Kudos to Opera.

      • by Azureflare ( 645778 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:56PM (#8649559)
        And his favorite browser is Opera. I bet this will just make him love opera even more! It's tedious for him to type, as he has limited control of his hands, so this will really help him out. I'm really glad Opera is doing this.
      • PDAs? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by asteinberg ( 521580 ) <> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @07:20PM (#8650480) Homepage
        While the accessibility benefits you mention are nice, I think the key to this that most people seem to be missing is the usefulness on PDAs. I seem to recall Opera being most successful with the embedded version of their browser, and I'd say that is probably where voice interaction has the most usefulness.

        Imagine a PDA that you can actually talk to instead of having to struggle with "Graffiti" or the little thumb keyboards. Hell, if it's good enough, you could even get rid of the need for a screen and just interact entirely through voice - here's how we could finally get a useable web browser/email client/schedule program in a watch!

        One step closer to some of the concepts explored in Snowcrash, maybe?

    • "This sounds like a fun thing to play around with, but I certainly don't see myself using it as a normal web browser. I'll most likely stick with my keyboard"

      Well, while you probably have the option to pick your keyboard, there are many handcapped people in the world that would find amazing just surf the Web all by themselves. This will be much more than a toy for them.

    • by GreenCrackBaby ( 203293 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:34PM (#8649286) Homepage
      Think of how this will change the life of a disabled person, who may be unable to type?

      And as for presentations, who says you have to stop your speech to scream "NEXT SLIDE". Imagine a presentation package capable of picking up from your presentation exactly when you'd like the next "slide" (useless word since you could now do much more than you are constrained with using Powerpoint).

      Imagine, during a presentation, being able to say "If you look at the sales figures for the year..." and have your presentation automatically display those figures.
    • My first computer class ever, last week (no just kiddin) there was a, man in it who relied on DragonSpeak to operate his computer since he was blind. It took this guy longer than everyone else to do his work in class, but I was impressed at his determination.

      If successful, actually doing what it promises, this application by Opera could make his browsing life easier, and much more interactive.

      • I would think for blind people, a text only option on Opera would be a nice feature to save on bandwidth(I haven't used Opera in a few years, so I'm not sure). I wonder how the voice enabled Opera would work with text only?
    • a) find a company to make a powerpoint alternative which saves to html files

      Options include:

      a) Save PowerPoint presentation to HTML using PowerPoint itself.

      b) Save PowerPoint presentation to HTML using OpenOffice

      Of course, you're going to lose all your fancy wipes and fades, but to those I say "good riddance!"
    • by Krondor ( 306666 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:56PM (#8649557) Homepage
      a) find a company to make a powerpoint alternative which saves to html files

      OpenOffice [] can save to HTML and Flash files from Presentations.

      Even if they accomplished that, people's stupidity and ignorance has proven time and time again that whether microsoft's software is better, worse, or just as good as its competitors- people will buy microsoft's software instead of others. Look at, mozilla (most people use ie)/opera/konquer/galeon/netscape/etc, linux, amd a bunch of other superior software.

      People buy Microsoft software because they are
      a.) not familiar with the competitors
      b.) worried about compatibility with the rest of their microsoft software
      c.) do not want to retrain staff
      d.) need feature X which competition lacks
      e.) work for Microsoft or are otherwise affiliated with them.
      f.) do not trust an unproven product (in their eyes) and don't want to be the guinea pigs

      Point being, as other software matures it will be harder and harder for Microsoft to release sub par software and expect a solid buy in. If you look at Mozilla it's growing speed very fast now, I know a number of Windows users that aren't even very technical that use FireFox and/or Mozilla. Look at OpenOffice, Microsoft is killing themselves with their own Doc standard. They can't move future iteratios of Office to abandon or morph the compatiblity of .doc too much or they break compatiblity with themselves, and this allows the competition to reverse engineer and support those standards.

      As far as Opera's voice operated browser goes I think this is great, especially for disabled and handicapped people. I also think there's a certain appeal to be in front of a board and say Next slide to your openoffice html/flash presentation and have it progress. I mean what a way to impress.
  • by Control-Z ( 321144 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:25PM (#8649169)

    What could I possibly have to say to my browser?
    • Something extremely common like a web search, perhaps? Saying "google" rather than typing in might be useful. Or saying "google slashdot" to look for Slashdot on Google without typing. Or programming a voice command to take you to a bookmark.
    • What could I possibly have to say to my browser?

      Agreed. While there are some cases where voice-activated technology has its uses (I very much doubt people would be thrilled with typing into their onboard navigation systems while driving) a web browser or other common features on your computer simply don't need speech recognition.

      For Joe User, I doubt we'll ever see widespread use of speech recognition technology. Who wants to go hoarse telling a computer what to do when it only takes a flick of the wris
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:25PM (#8649171)

    Now the jerk in the cubicle next to me will talk both with himself, "the fairies" and his browser.

  • by michael path ( 94586 ) * on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:26PM (#8649176) Homepage Journal
    Though I can certainly understand the need to market something unique, and the logic behind "Voice is the most natural and effective way we communicate....." [], I cannot ever see myself talking to my web browser like another human being.

    I've worked with and supported both ViaVoice and DragonNaturallySpeaking solutions for voice-based typing in word processors, and neither of them felt natural. Perhaps because I'm a geek, or just because I've been doing it so long, I'd rather manually key in exactly what I want and let myself make the mistakes, not the interpretation.

    With corrections, it always took longer to do the alleged "easier way" than manually keying in. Even with 99% accuracy, Word Processing was always clunky at best.

    That, and every time I scream out "litigious bastards", I don't need it pulling up litigious bastards [].
    • Voice is the most natural and effective way we communicate...

      Psht. And wrong, too. The most natural and effective way we communicate is through body language.

      Give me a ring when they invent a web browser that scrolls down when it sees my eyes get to a certain part of the page, or clicks "back" when it sees my jaw slack in boredom.

      Or, better yet, automatically browses to another, non-porn, page while the girlfriend/boss is still walking down the hall...
  • Slash dot (Score:5, Funny)

    by moberry ( 756963 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:26PM (#8649177)
    *speak it* h t t p : / / slash dot . org
  • voice operated? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by goosebane ( 740956 )
    I have tried a lot of voice operated software, but have never had any luck getting it to work. Has anybody else had better luck with voice activated software? What do you think the chances of this actually working for most people are? Until Ive seen a product that works well I unfortunately have to remain skeptical.
    • Re:voice operated? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by AndroidCat ( 229562 )
      I don't think Microsoft has had much luck. Otherwise they would have made use of the text-to-speech and voice command capabilities built into Clippy's agent software. [] (Or it was just even more a pain in the ass than now. Wow .. imagine, a Clippy even more annoying than it is now! Who says Microsoft doesn't advance the state of the art?)
    • Until Ive seen a product that works well I unfortunately have to remain skeptical.

      ScanSoft's Dragon Naturally Speaking is amazing, does some outstanding voice recognition. Of course, you're shelling out $600 (plus $75 on a good mike) so it damn better work well, and it does.

      I didn't see an price listed in the Opera press release. If it incorporates the full ViaVoice software, then it may work well. Of course, you still need a good mic, that makes a huge difference in the quality of voice recognition.
    • Re:voice operated? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gryphokk ( 648488 )
      I've used Mac's system "speakable Items" in both OS 9 and OS X,which uses a floder full of icons/scripts. Speak the name of the icon, and it actsw as a double-click. The biggest problem is using it in any kind of noisy environment. Hallway traffic interferes with it, and forget having the radio or stereo on.

      It was pretty effective as far as it went, but not a total solution. I used commands to launch all my common programs, and common File: and Edit: commands.

      (Photoshop. Select all. Copy This. Quark Expre
    • by Unoti ( 731964 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @06:06PM (#8649657) Journal
      I'm with goosebane on this-- I have yet to see voice software that are truly helpful rather than just gimmicky.

      I have had some success with "hardware", though. The other night I called home and asked my daughter to tell me the address of a shopping mall I was looking for. She googled it, clicked around, and a few seconds I had the address. That's the kind of thing I wish voice recognition apps could do!

  • Pie in the sky...
  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:27PM (#8649194) Homepage Journal

    Voice input and output.. that'll make it a lot harder to discreetly search for pr0n whilst at work.

    Computer: "Hi. I am your browser. What can I do for you?"

    User: [whispering]Find me "porn"...

    Computer: "The band KoRn was formed in 1993 by Jonathan Davis and..."

    User: NO! [whispering] Not "KoRn"; "porn".

    Computer: "Clogged pores are the major cause of adolescent acne. Starting at puber..."

    User: NOT "PORE", DAMMIT!!! [coughs, lowers voice] find me "porn"..

    Computer: "Iron Ore is the primary ingredient in steel. Metalurgists will add other elements and compounds to give the steel certain proper..."

    User: NOT "ORE", YOU PIECE OF SHIT! [office mates look over cubes] [whispers] Look.. I want to look at naked people..

    Computer: "The lawyer has informed us that we need a warning! So.. if you are under the age of 18 or find this photograph offensive, please don't look at it. Thank you!"
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:27PM (#8649199) Homepage Journal
    As it's Opera, you have to sing to it.

    "Is this the real life, is this just fantasy..."

    • by Cyclopedian ( 163375 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:43PM (#8649400) Journal
      Caught in a landslide,
      no escape from reality. (Ms Windows)

      Open your eyes,
      look up to the skies and see.... (Mozilla)

      I'm just a fool boy,
      I don't need sympathy (Linux user)

      Cause I'm easy come, easy go
      Little high, little low (Mac OSX User)

      Any way the wind blows,
      doesn't really matter to me... (Windows BSOD)

      Now I've got this song stuck in my head. =)
  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:28PM (#8649215)
    The key thing about PowerPoint presentations is that it's supposed to be a visual backdrop that you can control without disrupting your presentation. What a powerpoint presenter really wants is a simple wireless device to advance to the next slide, and maybe a back button in case of a mis-click. Any additional buttons beyond two are annoying.

    Come on, this technology has existed for the TV weatherman for years. Why hasn't anybody gotten it right for PowerPoint users yet?
    • They've been selling wireless mice and keyboards for years! Logitech are particularly good.
    • Egad - there are a million devices of which you speak. The simplest of which might be any old programmable multi-button mouse.

      But personally, I think this has great potential for presentations, without disrupting them - especially if you could control the commands used to advance each slide. For example, if you could program the transition to a sales figures slide to be triggered by the words "sales figures for 2002", then it would automatically pull up the right slide when you say "Now let's look at the s
  • ...oh..oohhh...oooohhhhh...aaaahhhh.. command.


    "Two sure ways to tell a sexy male; the first is, he has a bad memory. I forget the second."
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You know damn well this is the first obvious add-on.
  • by AgtSmith ( 738147 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:29PM (#8649232) Homepage
    Well for some of us the major work out a day is mouse gestures and keyboard pecks. I guess now I'll have to actually get up to burn off that Big Mac with extra value fries.
  • by physicsboy500 ( 645835 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:30PM (#8649242)
    " I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that"
  • by DA_MAN_DA_MYTH ( 182037 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:31PM (#8649255) Homepage Journal
    You can do the same with just about any other browser on Mac OS X. With the speech module you can connect a voice command to any keyboard sequence. I have it set up to switch tabs, create tabs, and with the 'Make this page speakable' voice command, you can navigate to any page, making it work like a bookmark system.

    What would be nice is if 'Speech' could recognize the commands for a particular application without switching focus. So I could be coding on one screen while browsing on another.
    • by linoleo ( 718385 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @07:04PM (#8650303) Journal
      I remember back when the Mac first got voice-activated menus (over 10 years ago), our secretary liked them... so whenever we were passing by her office, we'd stick our head in and say "select - all files - move - trash - yes" (or whatever the magic sequence was) by way of greeting. :-)
  • Homophones... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:31PM (#8649258)
    There are many words in the English language that have homophones. Google being a text-based search interface is smart enough to not mix up "four" and "for", "too" and "two", or "plane" and "plain". There's no way for voice recognition technology to tell the difference between those words in a search query, there simply isn't enough context...
    • Check out stuff like lojban that really seek to take languages to the next level. Lojban is built so voice and text can be converted. Lojban is even computer parsable.
    • by DavidpFitz ( 136265 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:42PM (#8649390) Homepage Journal
      There are many words in the English language that have homophones

      Absolutely - using Dragon Dictate I once asked my browser to go to I ended up at and that phrase has now become my test for dictation software!!

    • Re:Homophones... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by n8willis ( 54297 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:43PM (#8649396) Homepage Journal
      Well, but text-based search cannot distinguish between homographs, like bow (as in tie a ribbon into a...) and bow (as in one end of a ship). So there are trade-offs either way.
      • Re:Homophones... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rallion ( 711805 )
        Makes no difference, as the speech software will run into the same problems anyway. All it does is convert it to text, after all.
    • Re:Homophones... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kunta Kinte ( 323399 )
      There are ways around that. We can do it the same way humans taking dictation do it.

      One potential workaround is to have a short period of 'sensitivity' after common homophones.

      For examaple the speaker says 'Final 4' but the browser types 'Final for'. The software recognizes that 'for' is a common homophone and waits a *very* short time ( a second or two ) after the uttering of 'for' for *another* occurance of 'for', which would imply a correction. Also an occurance of a special word eg. 'no', followed
    • There are many words in the English language that have homophones.

      Eye for won due knot sea awl aught of miss takes re: salting from hoe mow phones. Inn fact, eye am you sing the pro gram write now.

  • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:31PM (#8649265) Journal
    How complicated can you make a browser?

    I mean, tabbed browsing is cool, I've gotten used to it. But stuff like mouse gestures, voice recognition, etc, all just seems like fluff.

    One could have mapped spoken keywords to mouse/keyboard actions already if this is what they wanted.

    It's a hard arena to innovate in. This just seems kind of silly.

    What's next, support for force feedback chairs that scroll the browser based on which ass cheek I'm clenching?

    • by hkmwbz ( 531650 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:47PM (#8649447) Journal
      Opera is known to care about accessibility []. This technology probably has many uses, and it will be especially welcome to people with certain disabilities.

      To you, it might be a gimmick. To someone with a disability, this could make life a lot easier.

    • Switch of that toolbar with back buttons and print out the sheet with mouse gestures. Try it for a day of webbrowsing. Then just see if you are also starting to use mouse gestures in other apps. (important really try to do all the gestures and not "skip" to alt-f4 and such)

      Personally I did it because I didn't like how much space the icon toolbar was taking. My use of opera also opens most pages in other windows.

      So for instance to reply to you I rightclicked the link and moved the mouse down a bit opening

  • by sklib ( 26440 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:31PM (#8649266)
    I'm sure you've all done this at one point or another -- you stand over the shoulder of a friend or co-worker, and tell him or her to go to a website that you are familiar with, and they are not. Then you say "Ok, click on 'specs' up in the corner.... no, the other corner... yes, that button... no, don't click below it - that's somethign else..." Same deal with e.g. getting someone to change an option in a program somewhere -- you gotta walk them through a series of mouse clicks or things to look for, and it's frustrating when they don't do it right away. (maybe i'm just an impatient jerk?)

    The point here is when it's hard to instruct intelligent people how to browse the web, how well can a computer do it? I have my doubts.
    • I'd bet you good money (eh..if I had any) that if this catches on (and it will, so long as it works as advertised) websites (or the W3C) will start to use conventions specifically for this. Browser controls will be simple (reload/backwards/forwards/go:???) I'm sure something like ', link:science' will be possible, it will be interesting to see how much and what kind of an effect this will have on things!
  • I personally think having alternative means of interacting with our software is important.

    For a user such as myself a keyboard and mouse is presently more intuitive, but eventually this sort of software should prove very useful, especially as computers become more fully integrated into our lives.

    This technology might also be useful with a couple of modifications, for the blind if it was coupled with one of those applications that reads the text from the screen for you.

    I hope the next step would be interf
  • This was covered not too long ago on PocketPC Thoughts:
    link []

    It is a multimodal browser, which means it supports VoiceXML basically.

    Opera is making one, and so is NetFront (a PPC browser)

  • by wwest4 ( 183559 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:34PM (#8649289)'s all well and good. but can the speech recongnition module parsebork? [] if so, it will be the ultimate presentation tool:

    "Now gentlemen, pleese-a turn your ettenteeon to-a sleede-a twelve-a. bork!bork!bork!"
  • It may have a niche. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mystery_bowler ( 472698 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:34PM (#8649292) Homepage
    For a while my wife was a physical therapist at a nursing facility that specialized in head tramau and paralysis. I installed Dragon NaturallySpeaking for several patients there and several of them became extremely proficient in using it. I'm not sure how having built-in support would be more advantageous, though.

    I can't see this having wide acceptance in the corporate world. Cube farms are noisy enough. I can't imagine what it must sound like for everyone to be browsing by voice.

    I also can't imagine some of my co-workers saying the addresses of what they browse out loud. *shudder*
  • by Frailty ( 676368 ) <versionq05@co v a d . net> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:35PM (#8649304) Journal
    I installed some of the first off the shelf Voice recognition software a number of years ago for my sisters cousin who has cerebral palsy, and it made a huge difference in her being able to use the computer for her education, I sent the Opera Link to her Mom to look at in that this might be something that would suit her also.
  • by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:36PM (#8649312)
    "Dubya Dubya Dubya period white house period gov" ;-)
    (note to dems, i'm not a troll, i'm canadian)
  • Was the Operaman skits from SNL with Adam Sandler.

    Our browsero, isa beterro, then de Internet Exploraho

    (on close...)
    OperaMAAANNNN, bye BYE!
  • by ashultz ( 141393 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:37PM (#8649332)
    The only reason that voice is a good interface to other humans is that humans are very very good at filling in the missing pieces, making inferences, and generally making up for things that are unheard, misheard, or unsaid. And even so we have misunderstandings.

    Once we have a computer that can do this, we'll have great interfaces - it will be like robo-butler. But we're not there yet, and robo-idiot-child - "I thought you said Quick Bananas, so I googled and we're at the Dole website" - is only going to make things annoying.

    It will be a boon to those who can't use point and click for whatever reason, and ignored by everyone else.
  • by Snork Asaurus ( 595692 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:39PM (#8649356) Journal
    browser plugin listens to you.

    I'm sorry, but I had to do it just once.
  • The computer learns to recognize users' voices, accents and inflections by having them read a list of words into a microphone.

    Can it then also recognize my behavior patterns and crack open a Pabst and adjust my USBchair eveytime I tell it to launch Quake 3?

    AAaaaah....the digital life.

  • Now when I'm hiding from the sun in front of my monitor, I don't even have to move. No more pesky arm movements, no more mouse clicking /shudders/. Now I can browse the internet without the physical effort. Now if they could just come up with a 'thought-controlled' plugin, I won't even have to talk.

  • I hope it nows its and not some gay porn site.
  • by DrSkwid ( 118965 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:45PM (#8649423) Homepage Journal

    I got a free copy of dragon dictate once so I trained it as much as possible.

    I got mozilla working quite happily, 'down' 'up' 'slow' (that was a good one, it slowly scrolled down), 'back' etc.etc.

    the thing I found after weeks of training that it was just so tiring talking all the time

  • "Hi. I am your browser. What can I do for you?"
    SHUT UP!
    "Are you sure you want to close the window?"
  • Apple's old Knowledge Navigator []... you speak to the computer, and it's all a very decked-out browser...
  • But honestly, aside from those who are paralyzed, how would this be practical? Why would *I* want to use it?

    It would be annoying as SHIT to hear someone constantly talking giving commands to their computer. It brings to mind that came coming out for PS2.. how annoying. "Move left, move right. Check the drawer. Fire. Fire fire, move left, fire."

    It seems more like a gimmick.. like "Hey, look what we can do!" more than something that would actually be beneficial or innovatice. It might be fun for the fi
  • I, for one, really don't want to find out what website uttering a sudden exclamation like "Oh, shit!" will take me to!
  • I heard a story about a voice controlled word processor. The guy was dictating a message, when two of his cow-orkers walked by. He said "Hi, Nick and Ben". The computer typed "Hi, naked men".
  • Already got it (Score:5, Informative)

    by maggard ( 5579 ) <> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @05:53PM (#8649528) Homepage Journal
    Recent version of MS Windows get speech recognition installed in with recent versions of MS Office, or added as a free download from MS. Mac OS X also comes with speech recognition and just announced they're gpoing to screen-reader enable their entire GUI.

    Also as the article notes one can buy more extensive add-on products like IBM's Mac/PC ViaVoice & Dragon's family of products as well as numerous other lesser-known and more specialized ones.

    That's today, already on millions of desktops, ready and capable of driving web browsers, sitting there ignored.


    • Few folks are even aware that speech recognition or speech generation are trivially or already installed on their computers
    • When general users do use these capabilities they're usually disappointed they're not more like the ones on TV, where a simple ambiguous command is immediately interpreted and plot-appropriate material magically recited out
    • Most folks don't have microphones plugged into their computers, or they're ones unsuitable for speech recognition
    • Few folks bother to spend the time and energy into fine-tuning their microphones and training the speech recognition for their particular speech pattern and vocabulary
    • Reading text is faster then hearing it, even at faster-then-typical-human-speech recitation speeds. The same goes for typing being faster then dictation
    • Screens and keyboards afford a minimal level of privacy. With them eavesdropping generally requires line of site, not just sitting in the next cubicle over and unavoidably hearing everything
    So, where will this be useful? Anywhere keyboards aren't. Web phones. Industrial environments (well, quiet ones). For physically challenged folks with visual or manual problems. But sitting in the typical office workspace? Not gonna (still) revolutionize the world.
  • I had OS/2 with voice built into the OS, allowing all the software to operate by voice.

    Unfortunately, while it was an interesting feature, it was more of a gimmick. I can type far faster and more accurately than I can talk.

    The only real market for this product IMHO is for those who are unable to type, but I'm not at all certain that a large portion of this market - technophobes - can be sold.

  • Remember, the opera isn't over until the fat lady sings!
  • Voice internet... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jasno ( 124830 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @06:49PM (#8650096) Journal
    Reminds me of something I've been thinking of putting in my house for a while.

    Imagine a simple voice interface for limited internet functionality. Place microphones and speakers around the house. Now, when I'm sitting on the couch reading a book and I come across I word I haven't seen before, I can say "Hey Frank, lookup the word '...'." Need the weather? "Hey Frank, what's the weather report?".. Etc, etc..

    It should be fairly simple to tie a speech recognition engine to some python scripts to perform simple queries and return a parsed result ready for text-to-speech conversion. One big problem the dictionary feature brings out is how the speech recognition would handle unfamiliar words. Even leaving that feature out, it would be nice to have a limited set of features I could use anywhere in the house.

    Use some sort of unique gating phrase('Hey Frank!') and look for the nouns and verbs to give it some flexibility.

    • Re:Voice internet... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cr0sh ( 43134 )
      Use something like the z-machine (zork) parser. You could start with simple verb-noun parsing, like the old text adventures. One thing about the "gating phrase" - as in ST:TNG, have the computer make a sound, signaling that is it ready for the command - that is a good UI feature, I think, for the voice interface...
  • by HedonismBot ( 742920 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <relliug>> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @06:59PM (#8650224)
    Farnsworth: "Shut up friends! My internet browser heard us saying the word Fry and it found a movie about Philip J. Fry for us. It also opened my calendar to Friday and ordered me some french fries."

    3ACV04 - Luck of the fryish
  • by El ( 94934 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @07:10PM (#8650378)
    Are you sure it's a good idea to have presentation software that actually responds to comments shouted out by hecklers in the audience?
  • Next generation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shamino0 ( 551710 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @07:11PM (#8650391) Journal
    This reminds me of the voice-enabled version of Netscape that IBM bundled with OS/2 version 4.

    That system was simpler, since it couldn't rely on special voice-HTML markup tags. It took advantage of the fact that any UI element (menu item, button, etc.) in the system can be activated by speaking its text. So they added a quick Hack to Netscape so that every link's text (or ALT text) visible on a screeen would be present on a "Links" menu - thus turning the links into speakable keywords.

    It worked very well for browsing. Much less well when you want to enter new URLs. The dictation mode left a bit to be desired. But that was to be expected from the hardware of the time. Voice recognition on OS/2 required a minimum of a 150MHz Pentium, IIRC. (It would work - with much latency - on my 80MHz 486, however.)

  • by burtonator ( 70115 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @07:14PM (#8650424)
    I've been pretty down on the whole concept of voice recognition for a while now.

    After NASA announced their subvocalization project (I'm too lazy to find the slashdot URL... someone earn karma for it!) I became excited again.

    The problem is if you're in an office you can't just start talking. Right now there are 10 people around me and most people are silently working on there computers. If they all started barking commands it would be loud as hell in here. It just doesn't scale.

    If you add the subvocalization work this totally changes the equation. Now I can silently tell my computer to do things while my hands type away.

    This is going to ROCK. Talk about multitasking... I can be typing out this slashdot post and without stopping I could launch gaim, ymessenger, make sure I'm on IRC... startup Emacs in the background , etc.


    Gimme gimme! $100 says the Mac has this next year and Linux has it sometime around 2015. :)
  • Here's Hoping... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spoonboy42 ( 146048 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @07:24PM (#8650509)
    God, I hope something like this replaces PowerPoint. As we all know, PowerPoint makes you stupid. It forces you either to dumb down your presentation to the intellectual complexity (and entertainment value) of an infomercial, or cram so much text onto your slides, most of which you will recite anyway, that you might as well just pass out reports in 3-ring binders.

    That said, I think the most crippling thing about PowerPoint is its linearity. Not all presentations "want" to be laid out into a preset order of points. If a college professor or a businessperson gets asked a question during a presentation, all too often it is diverted by saying "well, that's coming up in a few slides", or the presentation is interrupted as tangential data is introduced.

    Using voice recognition instead of click-through navigation opens up some great possibilities for non-linear presentations, though. Imagine that, instead of organizing your presentation into a linear timeline, you group slides and other media into "points", each of which represents a different idea relevant to your talk. You can arrange these points into a web, indicating what information depends on prior knowledge from other slides, etc. You then assosciate each point with an audio "cue", say a phrase like "projected profit margins" or "the three kingdoms period". You'll note that these phrases are things you're likely to naturally utter in your presentation anyway. This has the advantage of enabling you to speak totally naturally without interrupting your presentation. To avoid accidental jumping, we would have, say, a little translucent blue arrow fade into being every time a cue is recognized, disappearing a few seconds later. If you actually want to jump to a new point, it's just a quick click of a button when you see the blue arrow.

    So, imagine you're giving a sales presentation to a group of executives. You notice this particular group is getting bored with your standard sales pitch. No problem, as you just drop a key phrase into your speech, and instantly change your presentation to include information you think will appeal to the business interests of your audience, or simply to their personality. Or, imagine a professor is giving a lecture on a peice of literature. A student asks a question about the author's background, and the professor can easily insert some information on their country, their historical circumstances, and their life.

    Of course, organizing this type of presentation requires a greater investment in planning, and certainly requires a little more cognitive ability than your standard PowerPoint fare. However, those who work with these new presentation systems will be giving themselves an undeniable competitive advantage over presenters using linear methods. And those in the audience will be grateful, I'm sure.

A consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, and sends you a bill for it.