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Help for voice recognition mess

Lernout and Hauspie's newly patented technology distinguishes user commands from text dictation without the user manually shifting from one mode to the other.

Lernout and Hauspie announced today that two U.S. patents have been granted for technology in its consumer voice recognition software, L&H Voice Xpress.

Voice recognition software, one of the fastest growing consumer software sectors, has been criticized for its spotty accuracy in early versions, and L&H in particular has been criticized for its inability to seamlessly shift from text dictation applications to file management commands.

L&H's newly patented technology distinguishes user commands from text dictation without the user manually shifting from one mode to the other, the company says.

In a report issued earlier this year by Fisher-Holstein, Voice Xpress' accuracy dropped because the product had a hard time distinguishing between commands and text--precisely the area the new patent purports to improve.

"The program did not always successfully determine whether the user's words were intended to be commands or dictation," concluded the report. However, many other voice recognition applications do not allow users to do both file management and word processing, said Roger Lanctot, an analyst at PC Data.

"Voice Xpress allows you to navigate around your computer, as well as dictate in Microsoft Word," Lanctot said. "The area is so young, it's still possible to come in with a different angle or approach, which L&H clearly has, and find a potentially different market."

In fact, revenue from speech-recognition applications grew by 60 percent, year over year, in June, according to PC Data, and unit sales grew by 25 percent, an indication that high-end products can find a niche as the market expands.

"The category is exploding," Lanctot said. "It's growing at a very rapid pace, in an un-price-sensitive fashion."

The other patent granted today to L&H involves the company's Intelliscope Search Enhancer, which allows users to orally search among databases or Web browsers.