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Say The Word

Get with the programs.

This story appears in the April 1998 issue of HomeOfficeMag.com.

Anyone can talk to their computer--or their refrigerator or their shoes--but Kurzweil VoicePlus actually makes your computer listen and obey. Whether you're trying to avoid carpal tunnel syn-drome, want to add figures to a spreadsheet while feeding the baby, or would like to impress a client, VoicePlus is a useful tool. Just a few years ago, voice technology involved an expensive speech recognition board, but VoicePlus works with your own sound card, speaker and microphone. (There's a headset in the box in case you don't have a speaker and a mike.) While the headset's earpiece was loud and clear, its microphone was too weak to use with my sound card. But my inexpensive Radio Shack mike and speakers worked just fine, as always. The headset mike that came with VoicePlus worked on a friend's sound card without any additional hardware. A pamphlet about the headset suggests adding an Andrea APS-100 headset if your sound card's mike port is weaker than 1.25 volts.

VoicePlus is pre-trained for a huge variety of Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 operating system commands, plus application commands for Microsoft, Lotus, Corel and other Win-dows programs. You can dictate English words with the pre-trained vocabulary and add words the program doesn't know; navigate through word processors, spreadsheets, database programs and e-mail applications; and even add blocks of boilerplate text with simple voice commands. Words must be spoken with a pause between each, and if VoicePlus gets a word wrong, you have the opportunity to correct it by choosing from a best-guess list or by typing another word. Although the program has to learn how you pronounce some words, it recognizes a surprising number of them.

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