Philips gets a new voice in retail

Philips gets a new voice in retail

Earmarking speech recognition as a key technology of the future, Philips Speech Processing (PSP) last week introduced Free Speech 98, its new player in the consumer space of this growth market.

To help the product stand out from the increasing number of options in the space, the speech arm of Philips will be offering the software packaged with a new accessory it is calling the Speech Mike.

Ron van den Bos, managing director of PSP, was in Australia last week to launch Free Speech, and during his visit predicted almost all future electronic appliances will be voice-activated.

But while acknowledging speech recognition is one of the hottest technologies at the moment, van den Bos warned there is definitely more to selling than just stocking the shelves.

"People recognise speech recognition as being a pretty well-developed product for disabled people but it has gone way beyond that," van den Bos said. "Best results from selling speech will come when its functionality can be demonstrated."

Indicating that setting up a PC in a retail store with functional voice recognition makes for an exciting interactive experience for consumers, van den Bos said retailers must let customers experience the technology. That might be through doing demonstrations or allowing customers to try the products themselves.

"One of the key motivations behind this technology is that it improves people's environment," he said. "It is already starting to bring business benefits to the office environment, especially for people who work remotely.

"By not having to use a keyboard for interaction with their computers, business people are now able to focus more on their customers, and there are also all sorts of quality-of-life issues associated with not being bound to a computer screen."

Free Speech 98 works with just about all of the popular software applications on the market and its biggest impact is expected to be through retail at the mass merchant stores.

Philips will distribute direct to the big players and is shortly to announce a distributor to deal directly with the independent dealer market.

Graeme Pearson, national sales and marketing manager for PSP Australia, said the multifunction Speech Mike product should be very popular with users of speech recognition software.

"The speech mike is a plug-and-play device with three main functions," Pearson said. "It is a speaker, it is a microphone, and it also has a track-ball that allows it to be a cursor controller."

With the advent of speech and Internet telephony, there is obviously a market for integrated PC accessories like the Speech Mike and there is likely to be a rash of new options for consumers.

"We are the only company in the world with this sort of device," Pearson said. "When you hold it to your ear, your mouth is on the microphone, so it is perfect for Internet telephony."

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