Lernout & Hauspie's (L&H) demonstration of a voice interface at CeBIT showed the potential for voice technology, but the cost of such a device could be prohibitive.
Bill DeStefanis, director of product marketing for PC applications at L&H says current hand-held computers are unsuitable for applications such as e-mail due to the difficulty of reading text on the screen.
L&H plans to manufacturer a hand-held computer which uses a voice interface rather than a screen. But the prototype device demonstrated at CeBIT requires a Strongarm processor and 128 Mbytes of memory to run the speech interface.
Jack Gold, senior programme director at analyst firm Meta Group says that 128Mbytes of memory alone would add up to $200 to the cost of a hand-held computer. "It is a very interesting concept," Gold observes, "but it is ahead of its time."
Gold estimates that a voice-activated hand-held computer could cost as much as $300 more than a standard screen-based hand-held. He warns that, while controlling a handheld computer by speech is relatively straightforward, free text dictation, where users speak to their hand-held computers is not even fully reliable on powerful desktop PCs.
On a more positive note, the ability for hand-held computers to read out information through text-to-speech technology is relatively inexpensive, adding about $50 to the cost of a device.
Sound concept L&H's hand-held will need 128 Mbytes of memory