back to article Microsoft previews TellMe phone voice control

The future of the mobile phone is... er... voice. So said Microsoft staffers during Bill Gates' (final) CES keynote speech last night. Voice for calls, obviously - but also voice for controlling the phone... Can't see the video? Download Flash Player from CES on Video Slash, Bill Gates and rock chick trade Guitar …


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  1. Neural9
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    Is it just me ...

    ... or is this boring technology? Haven't we been working on this for years and years? I still don't use my voice dialler because clicking 'r', then 'down' and then 'go' works 100% of the time.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    one day...

    soon we'll be able to speak into our phones, and this will be converted into a text which will automatically send to a recipient at the end of each long pause...

    imagine if that was coupled with a speech synthesiser too, so that when your friend replied, it could convert their text into voice, so that you could hear them...

    it'd almost be like talking to each other, how cool would that be...


  3. Anonymous Coward

    To be fair...

    There is some good in it - although I don't use the voice dialling when I have a phone in my hand, sometimes it's handy. For example, I use a bluetooth headset when my phone is inaccessable (not just at an office desk, but out kayaking if I have to make a call, could be an emergency or to get a weather report or whatever). In the latter case, my phone is in a sealed bag because I would rather the headset get lost/soaked than the entire phone. If I could use voice commands for more than just calling someone, it would be handy.

    The real truth is, voice-controlled dialling and all the other 'old' features of phones that 99% of the people don't use, are largely niche features. They are for people like me, without immediate access to the handset itself, or who don't want to risk the whole handset. Or old people, or perhaps young and old alike with rheumatism and other diseases, who find it easier to talk than manipulate small buttons. Or maybe just a painter or mechanic with dirty hands who want to use their phone for a ten-second call without completely cleaning up first.

    You people are so short-sighted.

  4. Stacy Kidd

    Maybe I'm reading too much into this but....

    what if voice commands eventually integrate into the majority of mobile phone features, like inserting text on text messages for example? I'm not sure I'd want to read aloud what I'm going to do with my boyfriend and the washing machine that night....

  5. Anonymous Coward
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    Voice-controlled GPS!

    Think about it. I use GPS with my Nokia N70. Instead of typing in some horrid street name, you just say "Destination: 15 High Street, Brighton" or whatever. Particularly nice when abroad (although if you have trouble spelling the street name, chances are you'll have trouble pronouncing it too), and would be ace for a solo driver making on-the-fly changes of destination.

  6. Mage Silver badge


    More video Reviews. Nooooo.

    I want words. The little squiggly usually black marks.

    Jim: "It's Format C:"

    Jack: "Yes".

    Room full of whirling disks....

  7. Herby Silver badge

    Is voice "efficient"

    Is it just me, or does it seem that this voice controlled stuff is just plain inefficient? When phones first started out, you picked up the phone, and the operator (they used to exist, really) said "number please". You said something (KLondike 5-9845 or some such) and presto chango, you were "connected". We have since evolved thru rotary dial phones (remember those?) and then nice push-button phones (Touch-Tone/DTMF) all to save time. Mostly this saved the time of the phone company, but the side effect was that it saved the USER of the phone the time as well. How fast can you say a phone number (AND have it understood) as opposed to "punching it in"? I get stuck with all these silly voice response systems and if I had a simple menu system I could get the information sent in MUCH faster.

    Then there is the security aspect. OK, you call your bank, then you SPEAK your account number to the voice response system. Oh, to have a handy pencil and paper nearby to copy down these nice numbers to order a new TV set for me. Really smart, eh?

    The other fact is that most voice response systems aren't that good (they are improving, but...). If you had your nice secretary/administrative assistant with the accuracy rate of the voice response unit (asking "is that right") you would hand out the pink slip pronto!

    It looks good on TV, but in real life it just doesn't fly!

    ObTechnology: I'm reminded of the race between morse code and IM keying on a cell phone. Guess what one won?!

  8. War Monger

    I was pretty impressed with Tell Me's application

    when I used it prior to the Microsoft acquisition. The speech recognition functions as well as any I've used, far superior to most of the call center IVRs we're all too familiar with. In response to a query for a specific business it delivered a menu offering 1) click to call 2)map to location and, if I remember correctly 3) driving directions. I found it very useful when en route to an unfamiliar location, not wanting to be distracted by triple tapping on a feature phone. A niche product, perhaps, but certainly one with a broad potential user base.

    The only beef I've got is with MSFT's presenter who says that voice will be "the" way we search on mobile. I don't believe that any more than I believed the MSFT talking head @ CTIA who said that Windows Mobile will be "the" mobile OS standard.

  9. Couard

    Re: TellMe video

    Combination of resonnating sound and thick American accent = toally incomprehensible video (at least for a b*** foreigner like me) :-(

  10. Jason Togneri
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    @ War Monger

    I agree - when I said niche market, I meant that it would ALWAYS appeal to a small number, and MAYBE appeal to a broader base. As for "the" way we do anything, as always, it's good to have one more possibility, to give us more flexibility and choice in how we do things. But people being as diverse as they are, stating "the" way to do anything is always going to be marketing talk - it will always be one among many.

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