Look-or, rather listen -- for voice recognition to become a much more central user interface during the next couple of years.
Zig Serafin, general manager for Unified Communications Group at Microsoft, sounded the clarion call for voice. He was quoted about the primacy of voice as the next step in user interfaces at the company site. This eWEEK piece highlights where Microsoft is and plans to go with its voice technology. Microsoft, the story says, is building on its 2007 acquisition of Tellme Networks and has built voice recognition features into Windows 7, Windows Mobile 6.5, Bing and Exchange Server 2010. The new Exchange server will be introduced at TechEd Europe next week in Berlin.
The story provides examples of how Windows-based voice technology is reaching the market. For instance, Samsung's Intrepid phone enables dictation of text messages and Hewlett-Packard's TouchSmart PC offers RecipeBox. This application helps chefs to verbally work though recipes and thus avoid messing up their keyboards. The story also mentions voice moves by Google and Apple.
Voice as an interface certainly has a place, but it is better in some situations than in others, according to this post at GigaOm. Says writer Colin Gibbs:
But while voice is a natural fit for mobile phones and some other platforms, when it comes to traditional computing - using a laptop, desktop or even a netbook - the use-case scenarios for speech recognition are more limited. It will take quite an effort to convince users to talk to their laptops instead of typing on them.
Gibbs points to mobility and scenarios in which hands-free operations are necessary as areas in which voice recognition will thrive. The writer lauds Microsoft's strategy in the acquisition of Tellme and the use of the cloud to build a robust infrastructure. He says the entire sector is looking (or sounding) good, with "impressive offerings" from MacSpeech, Nuance and Vlingo.
IT Business Edge's Susan Hall wrote earlier this year about how mobility is giving a push to voice-recognition technology.
Much of the dialog about voice recognition has been generated by vendors and industry observers. They point to health care as a likely vertical for its use. This piece at the American Medical News Web site suggests that voice recognition has come of age as an electronic medical records (EMR) tool. The piece says moves in this direction half a decade ago failed because the technology wasn't ready. This has changed, the story says. It cites The Fallon Clinic, which runs more than 20 offices in Massachusetts, as an example of a company that has saved $7,000 a year and reduced turnaround time on dictated material from as much as four days to 46 minutes.
Clearly, voice recognition will be a hot topic going forward. There are interrelated reasons for this: It is a great idea-especially for mobility and verticals in which hands-free operations often are necessary-the technology has matured and Microsoft is strongly behind it.