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Master’s Voice

Sometimes, slogging through bloated Web sites to find a piece of information can make you wonder whether all the clicking and typing are worth the trouble. Wouldn’t it be nice just to ask a question out loud, have the computer fetch the nugget of data you request, and then recite it back to you in plain English? That’s what you get from an experimental system that Naperville, Ill.-based Spyglass has devised in collaboration with Lucent Technologies.

Dial up the phone and ask your question, e. g.: “What’s today’s weather in Chicago?” After Lucent’s voice recognition software decodes the utterance, the Spyglass “Prism” system goes into data-mining mode. In this case, Prism identifies and retrieves just the data you asked for from www.weather.com -ignoring the megabytes of extraneous data at the site that would distract a surfer. Similar arrangements with other sites will permit quick-and-easy retrieval of, say, stock quotes, or sports scores. The phone browser is at least 18 months from commercial introduction, says Maia Tihista, director of corporate marketing at Spyglass.

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