Companies like One Voice and Jabber are trying to jump-start the use of instant messaging on cell phones, something most carriers already offer, analysts said. But the technology has been relatively slow to catch on, in part because cell phone users have to punch in the text on their keypads. Some companies allow customers to use verbal commands to send prewritten replies, such as "Thanks for the information. I'll call you later."
Using the updated One Voice software, customers say "check availability," and a computerized voice reads off a list of available MSN Messenger buddies, explained One Voice Vice President Mike Isgrig. The customer then says, "send a message to Bob," using the person's username, and the computerized message asks "What's your message?" The customer dictates a message, the message is read back to the sender, and then it is sent, Isgrig said.
Customers using previously released products that use vocal commands, such as speech-recognition systems in cars and computers, have struggled to have the machine correctly translate what is being said because background noise, volume, pronunciation or other factors can garble the message.
Isgrig said that wasn't an issue for One Voice: "I've had no problems with it."
The software only works with MSN Messenger for now, he said, adding that One Voice is looking to expand to other IM systems. A Microsoft spokesman said the two companies do not have a formal relationship.
"We're just doing it," said Isgrig, who is shopping the software around to wireless carriers with the hope they will sell it to their customers. "You never know with Microsoft."