Speech technology specialists Lernout and Hauspie will this week demonstrate a prototype of a PDA that responds to spoken commands.
L&H said that with the right partner support, the device could ship as a working product before the end of this year.
While there are an estimated six million PDA's in the world, they are constrained by either having tiny keyboards or requiring the use of a stylus. The number one accessory for such devices after a leather case is a keyboard.
L&H is promoting speech as a natural input method, especially for mobile users. The prototype uses the Intel Strong Arm chip, Linux as the operating system and a noise cancelling input microphone.
The device will demonstrate three speech technologies: natural language recognition for simple commands, Voice Express for dictation and an embedded version of L&H's text-to-speech engine RealSpeak for playing back information.
The demonstration, at the Cebit exhibition in Hanover, will show email downloaded from a server in summarised form that can be read by the user or read to them by the device. Using voice, the user can respond to email, browse the web and execute web-based commerce transactions such as a stock or product purchase.
Bill deStefani, senior director product management at L&H said: "This is no smoke and mirrors, this is a real prototype using real components that are available in the market today."
The device design, which is about the size of a cellular phone, includes for a small colour LCD display and stylus input. "We're not saying screens and styli are out, but that voice will be the primary input," said deStefani.
L&H has been touting the device around PDA makers and is currently looking for a manufacturing partner. Asked how well it has been received, deStefani said that reaction has been favourable.
Speech technology has a chequered history and in the past has failed to live up to user expectations. This time, L&H believes it has a compelling value proposition for non-PC wireless devices.
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