If you're a chat room fanatic who's tired of typing furiously to keep up with the flow, IBM's ViaVoice Online Companion might be worth a try. For a relatively small sum, you can give your weary hands a break from the keyboard and literally just chat.
As the name suggests, the Online Companion works with Big Blue's ViaVoice family of voice recognition products - the ViaVoice 98 Home, Office and Executive editions. If you already have one of these packages installed and trained properly, you don't need to do any additional preparation.
After some initial installation problems, I got my headset and the mike connected. Then Online Companion let me jabber away in Yahoo Chat and on America Online with ease. Once I was in the chat area's message field, I simply said "dictate directly" and then started "talking" to my newfound online pals.
Voice-to-text accuracy was pretty good, especially with brief messages. As with the regular edition of ViaVoice 98, I could correct misrecognised words on the fly by saying "Show correction window" and then dictating or typing the correct spelling. After finishing my dictation, I clicked Send - or in the case of AOL, I simply said "send" - and my message appeared immediately in the chat room. To other chat room participants, my messages looked as if I'd entered them on a keyboard.
Online Companion is optimised to let you dictate e-mail using Netscape Navigator, Microsoft Internet Explorer Outlook Express 98, and AOL.
The bottom line
ViaVoice Online Companion
Pros: ¥ Cheap add-on program can speech-enable your chat room conversations and enhance your e-mail dictation capabilities.
Cons: ¥ Works only with ViaVoice.
Value: Speech-recognition and chat-room enthusiasts will love the voice bonus.
Price: Available on application.