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Microsoft Voice Command for the Pocket PC
Posted December 2003 by Christopher “JuryDuty” Maselli


Microsoft says with their new program they've made consumers' wishes their command. They say Voice Command is “the result of 10 years of research, to make speech interaction simple, intuitive and practical.” But the real question is, Is it necessary?

In the simplicity department, Microsoft gets a perfect 10. Upon installing Voice Command, it guides you through Microphone setup, button selection and a brief tutorial. You'll be up-and-running before you know it.

Five Voice Command Functions

Microsoft Voice Command 1.0 was created to do five things with a definite set of commands. These are:

•  Hands-Free Phone
On Pocket PC Phone Editions, Voice Command can make calls for you. Just tell it to “Call Robert Smith” and it will. You can even be more specific: “Call Robert Smith at home.” Of course, you can also rattle off Robert Smith's number and allow it to dial it for you.

•  Calendar Lookup
If you want to know what's coming next, just ask Voice Command, “What's my next appointment?” and a voice will answer you, telling you what your appointment is and where it is located. You can also ask, “What's my schedule today?” or “What's my schedule tomorrow?” Voice Command will be happy to let you know.

•  Contact Lookup
Looking for Robert Smith's contact info? Just say, “Show Robert Smith” and his information will pop right up on the screen.

•  Media Player
Like listening to music? Tell Voice Command to “Play everything” and it will play every MP3 and/or WMA file on your unit. You can even to tell it to play a specific album, artist or genre. If you're not sure what you want, say, “Play music,” and Voice Command will guide you through the music on your PocketPC until you make a choice.

•  Program Launch
Start programs on-the-fly by just telling Voice Command to start them. “Start Pocket Excel” will have you crunching numbers in seconds—and it can launch any program installed on your Pocket PC. You can start a program by telling it to “Start,” “Show” or “Open” a certain program. Each command has a couple of these variations.

Actual Operation

You can't help but be impressed with the operation of Microsoft Voice Command. After pressing the voice activation button (which you designate), you hear a beep. Then you speak your phrase about 9 inches from your PocketPC microphone. Voice Command chirps again if it understands. If not, it tells you to try again. Then, instantly, it fulfills your command. Pretty impressive—and without any need for training. MS Voice Command doesn't train itself to recognize your voice but instead uses a universal voice recognizer engine. Surely, you'll be quite amazed at how slickly this program works. In fact, everything it says it does, it does—quite perfectly. Note that the results you'll get with Voice Command depend somewhat on the quality of the Pocket PC's microphone. HP iPAQs have good mics and results are excellent with that line of PDAs; however our Dell Axim X3i did well, but didn't have a perfect track record with Voice Command. If you're not getting optimal results, you'll want to tweak your Pocket PC's mic settings to improve results. Also, the the latest version of Voice Command, 1.5 is even more accurate than version 1.0 originally reviewed here.

Challenges only come in on user errors. If you can't remember how you've entered a contact's name, you'll probably pull up the wrong record. For instance, if you issue a voice command to see “Bob Smith” instead of “Robert Smith,” you probably won't get the right record. However, one trick is to put “Bob Smith” under the contact's Nickname field, which Voice Command includes in its search. Then, it will come up either way. That earns it a 7 out of 10.

Use with Pocket PC Phone Edition

Voice Command is a must have for Windows Mobile Pocket PC phones. Simply press the record button to dial contacts by name using voice recognition. You can also give voice commands for functions such as volume up, volume high, flight mode off, flight mode on, ringer high and more. Given how many screen taps it takes to do certain tasks on PPC phones, Voice Command can save you a lot of time and allow you to drive more safely. The only drawback is that Voice Command doesn't work over Bluetooth headsets, however it does work with wired headsets.

Glaring Omissions

Read other reviews on the Net and you'll see there's a lot of hype out there about this break-through application, and for good reason. As stated above, Microsoft Voice Command does what it does very well on most Pocket PCs and perfectly on my iPAQ . The question must be asked though, where's the rest of it?

Sure, you can call up a song by artist name, album name or genre…but you can't call it up by song title! You can have Voice Command read you a whole list of your appointments…but you can't ask it to read a contact's information (such as “read Robert Smith's address”), let alone a Word document or an e-book. MS Voice Command supports commands only, it does not do text-to-speech and does not read aloud to you. One has to beg the question why these functions weren't added—the technology is obviously there given the product's extensible command system and competitors' ability to add text-to-speech (the Toshiba e405 and e805 offer text-to-speech as does the Sony Car Cradle GPS system.

So is it really practical? It depends on what you want to do. Five out of 10.

Requirements

Currently, Microsoft Voice Command is available for the Windows Mobile 2003 operating system, for both stand-alone and phone editions.

Microsoft claims Voice Command uses 7 MB of device memory for tracking 500 contacts and 100 songs. It's unclear as to whether these numbers indicate caps on the software's abilities or not.

Conclusion

According to the press release, “Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit developed Voice Command to address consumers' need to be safely connected while on the go. A recent survey revealed that 50 percent of PDA owners use their devices while in the car.” After using Voice Command for a while, it's quite clear this program was created for those who needed quick access to their PDA while in their car. That's why if you have a Pocket PC Phone Edition device, Microsoft Voice Command is a must-have application. The ability to call your contacts by voice is worth every penny.

Stand-alone Windows Mobile users, on the other hand, will probably consider this program only a nice add-on, mostly for showing off their Pocket PC. Sure, it comes in handy—it saves you a few clicks and it's very nice for quickly looking up contacts. But is it necessary? No.

$39.95

 

Price: $39.95

Web site: Microsoft

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