What's New in Technology for June 2008

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Technology: Voice Mail to Text Function Makes Smart Phones Smarter
Technology has helped us to become more efficient and more accessible to our customers and our business colleagues. With increased accessibility come greater expectations. We expect everyone to be reachable, and we all want responses to our messages fast. Our patience and tolerance for delays is minimal at best. However, we all encounter business and personal situations—client meetings, training seminars, PTA meetings or concerts, for example—or circumstances –loud public sports arenas for example--where just can’t access and listen to our voice messages. If you are a business owner who has a constant need to be accessible to multiple clients, employees or family members during and after business hours, recent innovations in the conversion of voice mail to text may be the answer to your prayers.

Alltel Wireless together with SpinVox recently launched a new voice mail-to-text service that converts voicemails to text messages. Subscribers to their new “Voice2TXT” service don’t have to wait for an appropriate time to listen to voicemails, and no longer have to alienate fellow meeting attendees by ducking out frequently to check incoming messages. Most of us experience situations where we cannot, or don’t wish to, use traditional voicemail, and yet we need to be able to receive time-critical information. For those situations, voice-to-text wireless phone technology is a boon. So far, Alltel is the only one of the nation’s largest wireless carriers to offer customers this new service, but the other industry leaders won’t be far behind. The voice conversion technology developed by Alltel’s partner, SpinVox, uses artificial intelligence, voice recognition, and natural linguistics in its system which takes the spoken word and converts it to text. SpinVox currently supports conversion of voice-to-text in four languages—English, French, German, and Spanish. The service comes with various pricing tiers—starting at about $5.00 per month for 20 voicemail conversions; about $10.00 for 50, and $20.00 for 100 conversations. Each pricing point allows additional conversations at prices starting at 25 cents per conversion for the starting plan and ranging to 10 cents per conversion for subscribers to the more expensive $20 per month plan.

Speech recognition is one of the most intriguing, and potentially rewarding, emerging areas in the communications industry. As anyone knows who has problems with hands-free voice commands on their cell phone, or with automated customer service systems that operate on voice recognition, speech recognition systems are not infallible. They don’t always “understand” the speaker’s pronunciation. Technology giants like Google are investing in improving this accuracy through speech research and are exploring various applications. Bear in mind that it is early days yet for consumer voice-to-text phone messaging services. Potential subscribers should test programs carefully before buying to make sure the service is able to work with various speech samples with a high degree of accuracy.


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