Voice I/O still remains an elusive "holy grail" of user interfaces. The voice output part is getting very good. Voice synthesis has reached a point where most people can understand it and techniques for splicing human voice segments together sound quite natural. There have also been many accumulated lessons learned on when and were to use voice I/O so it is not annoying. Voice input still remains a difficult problem. However, a few years ago, Lernout & Hauspie, a Belgian company, developed a set of software products that not only did voice input and output better than anyone had before.

But solved most of the problems of speaker independence (recognition without training), and connected speech (the ability to parse words out of a continuous sentence). L&H voice I/O technology is used by Home Automation Lab's HAL line of software-based HA system products. The company quotes an 80-90% recognition rate from any untrained speaker on the first try as long as the user is willing to speak fairly standard commands.

HAL software-based home automation system uses voice input and output as the main user interface. The system can recognize requests from most speakers without any training.

The other more practical problem of voice I/O is getting the voice output where it is needed and having microphones available to capture voice input. HAL's product, as well as other voice input products, use the telephone as the primary voice input and output device although systems can use a set of microphones and speakers placed at strategic locations in the home.

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