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Talking avatar keeps your eyes on the road

USTelematics is out with Vivee, a new service that appears on the screen of your mobile device and reads your incoming e-mail and text messages to you.

Vivee logo

Met Vivee yet? If you're one of those folks who types text messages while barreling down the highway, you might want to. She's an animated avatar who appears on the screen of your mobile device and reads your incoming e-mail and text messages to you. That way you can keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road--unless of course, you can't keep your eyes off cute little Vivee, in which case you're really screwed.

The new online service from USTelematics connects to the Internet through the Verizon Wireless EV-DO high-speed network, so for now, it's provider-specific. When fully installed on a compatible device, Vivee, in addition to helping keep drivers in line, yields full wireless Internet connectivity--at speeds on par with many DSL services, according to USTelematics.

This talking avatar will read your e-mail and text messages to you. USTelematics

Vivee (short for Voice Interactive Voice Enhanced Email) came into being after USTelematics CEO Howard Leventhal had a close texting call with his 6-year-old daughter in the car. "Howard was driving about 45 mph while texting, and he looked up to see a car 100 feet ahead of him--fully stopped," said Charlene Montalbano, a product manager at the company. "He slammed on the brakes and stopped just inches shy of impact. Later that night after the adrenalin wore off, the idea for Vivee popped into his head."

The Vivee software--which is free to try for 90 days and then costs $4.99 per month--currently works with all Windows or Windows Mobile devices. The company plans to release an iPhone-compatible version by summer's end.

Also available from USTelematics, meanwhile, is the Vivee2go handheld device, which is essentially a GPS unit that reads your e-mail and text messages aloud. (Vivee does not work on preinstalled auto GPS systems.)

A survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance earlier this year found, alarmingly, that one in five people text while driving. The numbers jump to one in three among 18-34 year olds, and insurers predict that this trend will only increase as more people get access to mobile devices with messaging technologies.

In May, the state of Washington passed a ban on texting while driving, and a number of other states, including New York, California and Florida, are considering similar laws.