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Thumbless Text Messaging

Billed as the first speech-to-text mobile phone in the United States, the Samsung P207, released earlier this year, allows users to dictate text messages instead of keying them in. Unfortunately, this little clamshell has a tough time translating even the simplest phrases correctly.

I spent three minutes training the software, developed by Woburn, MA&ndashbased startup VoiceSignal, to recognize my voice by saying 122 words into the phone. To com-pose a text message, I had to speak slowly, with distinct pauses between words. When I tried to dictate the sentence “Meet me for lunch,” the phone interpreted it as “Means for lots once.”

I gave the phone a second chance, repeating the voice recognition training in a quieter room. This time, it only got one word wrong, replacing “meet” with “let.” Still, the slow pace of dictation and the high number of errors made the feature cumbersome. The phone was, however, terrific at recognizing phone numbers and names, making autodialing more convenient. Like speech-to-text software for PCs, which still hasn’t lived up to the promise it showed in the 1990s, software for cell phones will need a few more generations before enough of the kinks are worked out to make it truly useful. The Samsung phone is available through Cingular for $99.99 with a two-year contract.

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