IBM gives voice to the rise of Linux with ViaVoice
IBM gives voice to the rise of Linux with ViaVoice<@VM>Some of these 9 apps offer voice control for Web surfing
The company's dictation software is the latest in a line of new categories of Linux applications
By Mark A. Kellner
Special to GCN
The dramatic rise of Linux as a rival to Microsoft Windows'in potential if not yet in practice for most PC users'has led to many applications being ported over to the open-source operating system. The latest new category for Linux is in speech recognition.
IBM Corp. expected to announce late this month the release of its ViaVoice dictation software for Linux. The move came a week after company officials said it would make its ThinkPad notebook PCs available with a Linux OS in the third quarter of this year.
ViaVoice, priced at $59.95, is billed as a full dictation editor, with which users can 'build documents with voice commands, do creation and editing with voice,' said Tom Houy, manager of client systems marketing for IBM Voice Systems in West Palm Beach, Fla.
In addition, users can copy and paste dictated text to other text editors or e-mail programs, just as they can with the Windows version of ViaVoice, Houy said.
|Topics of speech|
Array microphone: A flat microphone that sits on top of your monitor or desktop PC; eliminates the need for a headset in dictation.
Continuous speech: The algorithm method used by most speech recognition programs to allow for continuous speech. Commands and punctuation need to be spoken'for example, 'period' or 'new line.' Recognition of text can be more fluid.
Discrete speech: An early form of speech recognition, which required users to speak in distinct words, pausing between each.
Enrollment: The process of training software to recognize your voice. Usually involves reading a prepared text. Programs also can scan your documents and e-mail to develop vocabulary lists of frequently used words.
Normal mode: Continuous speech dictation mode lets copy be created with voice.
Spelling mode: Useful when entering unique words or proper names. Most recent programs allow on-the-fly switching between modes with a voice command.
IBM said it has offered several voice elements for Linux over the past year'mostly in the form of software developer kits that can be downloaded free for personal use or licensed for redistribution. The company will now focus on individual users as well.
'IBM is very supportive of the whole Linux movement,' Houy said. 'We are bringing up every single software product in Linux. We've been very successful, and I think the Linux community has embraced IBM also.'
That may be an understatement: In the past 12 months, IBM has aggressively moved its product line into the Linux space. Although Compaq Computer Corp. is reported to be the leader in shipments of straight Linux servers, IBM appears determined to bring an enterprise focus to Linux computing, and that apparently means delivering a wide range of applications, including voice.
'We've been involved with doing the Linux stuff since about last April,' Houy said. 'The market is now light years ahead of what was available [then], both from software and hardware perspective.'
As with other aspects of the company's ViaVoice development, Houy affirmed that putting speech recognition on a desktop software platform is but one element of IBM's plans.
He hinted at the prospect of an additional Linux speech demonstration at the September 2000 GoMobile conference sponsored by Mobile Insights Inc. Visit the company's Web site, at www.mobileinsights.com
.Can we talk?
'Voice is one of key interfaces for the Linux community,' Houy said. 'It's going to expand in desktop and embedded systems.' He said that users of handheld devices will 'start going to Internet, and speech makes the mobile Internet possible; voice will be the interface of choice.'
The other major player in speech recognition, Lernout & Hauspie Inc., is taking a somewhat more cautious approach to the Linux platform.
L&H product manager Hank Pokigo said the company has its own speech software development kit for Linux, but is not yet creating a version of its popular Voice Xpress software for the platform. He said the company will watch the market and see if such a move is worth making.
|Vendor||Product||Main functions||Platform compatibility||System requirements||Features||Price|
|Dragon Systems Inc.|
|Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional 4.0||High-accuracy text dictation into any Windows application, edit text by voice, Web browsing, control of Windows desktop, text-to-speech, multiple user support, support of approved dictation recorders||Win9x, NT||Pentium; 48M of RAM for Win9x, 64M for NT; 200M of free storage; Sound Blaster or equivalent card||Has command Wizard for Macro creation, vocabulary of 250,000 terms and 160,000 words, formatting for Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, GoldMine 4.0, Outlook, WordPad and Chat||$695|
|Dragon NaturallySpeaking Legal Suite||Same functions as Professional edition, but features thousands of legal terms, precedents, phrases and abbreviations||Win9x, NT||300-MHz Pentium MMX, 128M of RAM, Sound Blaster or equivalent card||Includes terms designed for use in legal documents||$995|
|Dragon NaturallySpeaking Mobile Organizer||High-accuracy text dictation into any Windows application, edit text by voice, Web browsing, control of Windows desktop, text-to-speech, control of PIMs||Win9x, NT||200-MHz Pentium MMX, 128M of RAM, Sound Blaster or equivalent card||Supports users of Microsoft Outlook, ACT, GoldMine, Palm desktop and Lotus Notes||$399|
|Dragon NaturallySpeaking Preferred||High-accuracy text dictation into any Windows application, edit text by voice, Web browsing, control of Windows desktop, text-to-speech||Win9x, NT||200-MHz Pentium MMX, 128M of RAM, Sound Blaster or equivalent card||Basic business-level speech recognition program||$199|
|IBM Voice Systems|
West Palm Beach, Fla.
|ViaVoice Pro Millennium Edition||Command, control, and navigation of the desktop PC, provides Voice Mouse for hands-free mouse functions, takes direct dictation into Windows applications that accept text, provides voice- controlled Web browsing||Win9x, NT||233-MHz Pentium, 48M of RAM, 310M of free storage, Sound Blaster or equivalent card, Service Pack 4 for NT||Voice commands for desktop and system navigation; vocabularies include legal, medical and others; has a text-to-speech feature for proofreading||$179|
|ViaVoice Pro Millennium Edition Elite||Same, but adds a flat array microphone||Win9x, NT||Same||Array microphone lies on desk or monitor, picks up voice while filtering out extraneous noise||$249|
|ViaVoice for Macintosh||Only continuous speech dictation program for the Mac; text created can be copied into Mac word processors and other applications||Mac OS 8.5.1 and higher||G3, 48M of RAM, 200M of free storage, audio input jack for microphone||Creates documents, including e-mail, understands simple, natural, continuous speech||$89|
|Lernout & Hauspie Inc.|
|L&H Voice Xpress Professional 5.0||Direct dictation into most popular applications, features Web browsing by voice command and speech-composed e-mail||Win9x, NT, Win 2000||266-MHz Pentium MMX; 64M of RAM for Win9x, 96M for NT and Win 2000; 250M of free storage; Sound Blaster or equivalent card||Type By Talking feature records up to 160 words a minute; accepts natural language commands, and has a 307,000-word vocabulary||$149|
|L&H Voice Xpress Advanced 5.0||Direct dictation into many popular applications, features Web browsing by voice command and speech-composed e-mail||Same||Same||Shares many features with Professional edition but lacks advanced macro recording, voice tools and support for some applications||$89|