Voice recognition package aims to promote free speech

Linda Tsang reports

Electronics giant Philips and Technology for Business have linked up to launch the latest in the line of voice recognition products. The Voice Partner product will enable continuous speech to be converted directly into text.

At present, most systems can only deal with discrete speech, where the speaker has to pause between each word, but it is envisaged this package will allow users to dictate directly to a PC, which will then convert the speech into text.

It is hoped this speech processing capability will be integrated into other system applications, including case management, debt collection, mortgage repossession, personal injury, and conveyancing, as well as time recording and practice management.

Supplier ASA Voicewriter with its Dragon Dictate system, and other voice recognition systems such as Kurzweil Voice for Windows and Kolvox Office Talk have been targeted at reluctant keyboard users. The current competition on the market for continuous speech includes IBM's ICSS personal dictation system

This area of technology is advancing rapidly, but users generally need to have a reasonable working knowledge of the application they are trying to dictate to if there are to be real benefits to their system of working .

Philips dictation systems managing director Bernie Woollaston says: "Our research showed that potential users of speech processing want a system which is compatible with their existing business systems, as opposed to an independent, stand-alone application."

He adds: "As well as one large generic vocabulary and language context, we are tailoring the system to suit its final application, for example insurance, accounting or the legal profession."

Joint-chair of the Society for Computers and Law and independent IT consultant Neil Cameron considers such system integration for continuous speech "very exciting". He adds: "Because this system more accurately reflects the non-automated way that many lawyers are used to, it is better suited to those lawyers and other fee earners who are less interested in technology.

"It offers real value if it works efficiently."