Speech technology moved further into the mainstream at PC Expo, with most continuous dictation vendors rolling out new products, Philips joining the fray and prices dropping dramatically.
Only last year, Dragon and IBM announced the first PC dictation software that allows users to speak continuously, without pausing between words. A third product, Lernout & Hauspie?s Voice Xpress started shipping a few months ago.
Philips is next - though the company is not entirely a newcomer. In fact, Philips boasts it was the first to launch a continuous speech recognition system, back in 1994. However, this was a server based system and it transcribed pre-recorded text offline.
The new Philips Freespeech 98 has much of the functionality of competing products such as Dragon Naturally Speaking and Via Voice, but will be priced at a low $39 ? below competitors? stripped entry level products. It includes rudimentary support of voice commands for application control.
By the end of the year, Philips hopes to ship UK English, French, German and Dutch versions of the product, with more languages to follow.
Philips offers integration with its own Speechmike, a $74.95 all-in-one microphone, trackball and speaker specially designed for hands-free voice controlled computing.
IBM demonstrated Via Voice 98, the new version of its dictation product. It sports an enlarged 64,000-word dictionary, and has improved recognition of female and children?s voices. It will be available in French, German, English (US and UK versions) and Spanish. Via Voice 98 will be sold in three versions that range from $49.95 to $149.
Dragon Systems, meanwhile, launched version 3.0 of its Naturally Speaking. The new release offers 25 per cent better recognition than its predecessor, the company claims. A new feature is the support for natural language commands. Other enhancements include a larger vocabulary and the ability to transcribe tapes recorded with a handheld recorder.
Dragon is also reacting to lower priced competing products by launching Dragon Point & Speak, based on the same continuous speech recognition engine as Naturally Speaking, but stripped of all voice navigation commands. This entry level product will resell for about $50. A Standard edition of Naturally Speaking 3.0, with support for natural language commands, will resell for under $100. The full, Professional product is priced at $695.
L&H, which only recently started shipping its dictation product, Voice Xpress, was also present at PC Expo. It announced iTranslator Publish, software that allows Web developers to translate new Web pages in real time into other languages (including French and German). It will be priced at $50,000 for one language.
L&H will also soon launch iTranslator Search (formerly codenamed Coronado), a service that allows Web users to search the Web in multiple languages and have documents machine-translated on the fly. There will be a one-time $50 fee, plus another $50 a month for up to 50 pages of translation. L&H is currently negotiating with ISPs who may offer the service.
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