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Voice recognition growing flexible

General Magic announces what it hopes will be a robust voice recognition technology for an upcoming voice-based email and news service.

General Magic announced what it hopes will be a robust voice recognition technology for its voice-based email and news service.

MagicTalk will act as the "voice" of General Magic's upcoming network, dubbed Serengeti, allowing it to read back email, news, and stock information to subscribers over the phone, according to the company. Serengeti, which will also be accessible through a Web site, is targeted at the mobile small business market.

MagicTalk features a "personality" capable of some 5,000 responses to more than 1 million different phrases, General Magic said. The technology doesn't require the extensive speaker training that most voice recognition services involve, it added.

For example, a user can say to Serengeti: "Read my messages," "Get my messages," "Do I have any messages," or most any other variation of that command, and the service will access the user's voice mail messages, the company claims.

General Magic is working on a developer's kit to allow third parties to use MagicTalk in some Windows CE devices, such as the next generation of WebTV and "Palm PC" handhelds. Microsoft invested $6 million in General Magic earlier this year.

That investment, a separate $5 million round of private financing, and the coming launch of Serengeti are key elements of a turnaround strategy General Magic adopted when president Steve Markman took over in early 1997.

Serengeti with MagicTalk will be rolled out later this year. Pricing has yet to be determined.