Many interesting new products were released during the last quarter of 1998 and early this year. In this column, we will discuss some of the ones we had the opportunity to see and found especially impressive. Dragon Systems is producing a version especially for the voices of teenagers, priced at about $60, with the same recognition capacity of their larger systems. This is a very exciting development and it will be interesting to see how children perform with Dragon. Preliminary indications are that many of them will like it. This product, and those like it, which will no doubt follow, may do much to promote the widespread use and general acceptance of speech recognition. The child of today is the adult user and teacher of tomorrow. At least three wireless headset/microphone arrangements are noteworthy. Emkay/Knowles produces a beautiful unit, which we have mentioned here in the past, with a two-way radio frequency wireless headset, requiring no belt attachment. It is also lightweight, features a clear tone and comes with an attractive transmitter base. This will surely become a popular product for serious speech recognition users who need or like to roam. They also offer an infrared version of this product. Andrea also produces an showed an infrared wireless head set, which appears to be a microphone-only unit with a belt attached transmitter and one-way transmission. Shure displayed a wireless headset with a headpiece and belt-type attachment. Also of great interest from Voice Communication Interface was a lightweight radio frequency transmitter worn on the belt with a long range of 150 feet or so, for voice-in and voice-out, in which you can use your own microphone. The headset or microphone of your choice plugs into the belt transmitter. A separate receiver unit connects to the computer. This is a great advantage if one has already trained the system to a particular microphone, eliminating the need for retraining. Telephone switching devices to alternate between a telephone and computer dictation are offered by VXI and Plantronics and by Andrea. We have seen the VXI switcher before. Plantronics also has an attractive durable headset microphone for speech recognition use. Labtec offers an interesting "collar microphone." Instead of wearing a headband to support the microphone, the user wears a light holder around the neck, which many people may find more comfortable. The microphone comes up to the edge of the mouth. The microphone unit is designed especially for speech recognition. It retails for about $50. I have enjoyed using such a collar microphone in the past and find it convenient. Labtec also showed a "spool" where one can keep wire for the microphone on the side of the computer. One other headset from Labtec has a headset fit above the ears for those who do not like anything touching their ears. Of course these units do not contain earphone speaker systems. Labtec microphones have been approved for use with IBM and Dragon systems. Telex produces a telescoping desktop microphone, the "Aria," which allowed one to sit a substantial distance from the microphone but nevertheless has good noise cancellation. A long thin device sits on the desktop aimed at the speaker. They also recommend this for telephone use. Andrea also has a long thin desktop/automobile noise canceling microphone for use at a distance. Wizzard Software is offereing an interesting interactive program in which a little man, an "assistant" would converse with the user and help perform myriad operations, word processing, data base queries, email, etc. It is based on ViaVoice and programmable by the user, or customizable on request and is available in low cost modular units. Such interactive programs are probably the wave of the future.
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