Lernout & Hauspie has brought voice activation for handheld PCs a step closer. The company has upgraded its speech recognition and text-to-speech software to make it compatible with Windows CE. Although the speech specialist is a Belgian company, European users will have to wait to get their hands on the software. Initially, the technology will only work with the Clarion in-car PC companion, the Auto PC, available from spring 1998 in the US at around $1,200 (#745). Clarion would not commit itself to a Euro-pean release date for the Auto PC. Erik Tarkiainen, Lernout & Hauspie product marketing director, said that voice-recognition technology was essential for the success of car PCs. "There is no other way to input information," he said. "With voice recognition and text-to-speech, drivers will be able to use voice activated navigation software and have their Email read out in the car, as well as a host of other application. Excitement is high among developers looking at the in-car market." By allowing drivers to access information while keeping their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, the Auto PC will overcome the road safety drawbacks to in-car computers, according to Anne Mitchard, Windows and Internet group marketing manager at Microsoft. She also said the Auto PC would be able to recognise the voice of more than one user, making it more applicable to business markets. Windows CE developers already have access to Lernout & Hauspie's software, but none have yet announced voice-activated applications for the remainder of the handheld market. However, Tarkiainen believes that in due course the software will have a massive impact on the market. "Voice recognition and text-to-speech will put palmtop PCs in a different league since there are no hardware limitations," he explained. Lernout & Hauspie is currently working with six developers on both in-car and palmtop voice-activated applications.
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