Your Wishes Are My Command Says Treo
Before buying my first Treo smartphone a few years ago I had an old Nokia phone with a convenient 10 number ‘voice dial’ functionality which I had come to regard as rather useful.
For a very long time there were no voice dial applications for our Treo whatsoever and then the early ones that surfaced at around this time last year were so high on the hype and poor on the delivery that I had pretty much given up on this category altogether.
However, a short while ago a couple of new voice dial programs began to appear on my radar and I decided to test them even though I was pretty much ready to be disappointed. I first installed but quickly dismissed a program called VoiceDialIt which had me begging for mercy at its overly complex setup. Not expecting much better I installed VoiceCall next and quite shockingly found… one of the most exciting applications that I have come across in a very long time.
VoiceCall ($16.95) is an extremely simple yet powerful and useful application which allows you not only to voice-dial any preset contacts but also voice-launch any application and voice-command a number of pre-defined system tools. Right now all of this may sound like complete gibberish so let me take you through the actual setup for each of these to demonstrate how brilliantly this works.
The opening screen of VoiceCall (below left) shows you all the voice commands that have already been programmed – in this case I’ve already set three up. Clicking the ‘New’ button at the bottom left corner will open the New Voice Command window (below right) with a pull-down menu from which you can select to create a Launch Application, System Command or Voice Dialer.
In this case, I have selected to create a Launch Application command for my 4cast weather program which appears within a pull-down list (below left) of all the applications installed on my Treo. Next I click the ‘Record’ button and simply speak the word ‘Weather’ out loud while holding the Treo to my ear or close in front of me. I can quickly play back my recording and even test it for recognition accuracy (after a few trial and errors for all my commands I have now been able to achieve over 95% accuracy).
In order to test VoiceCall in a live environment you’ll first have to set a few preferences (below right) by pressing the ‘Prefs’ button on the home screen where you’ll want to a) tick Enable VoiceCall; b) select your preferred ‘Quick Start Button’ which will be used to launch VoiceCall (I used the Volume Up key which is very practical) and c) move the slider for Matching Sensitivity slightly away from the center towards LAX (which I found to work best) then hit ‘Save’ and exit VoiceCall.
If you’ve selected the same Quick Start Button as me then simply turn your Treo on and press the Volume Up side button (which will launch VoiceCall’s ‘Listening’ and ‘Recording’ on your screen) then speak your preset voice command (simply ‘Weather’ in my case). Next you will briefly see a ‘Measuring’ and ‘Confidence’ pop over like the ones below followed by an automatic launch of your chosen program (in my case 4cast).
Once you’ve understood this basic Voice Command setup to launch an application you’ll be ready to add as many additional ones as you want – a small tip that I’ve found useful to increase recognition accuracy is that it’s best to use two word commands such as ‘Open Weather’ as opposed to just ‘Weather’. In the same vein you’ll want to create Voice Dialer commands such as ‘Call Andrew’ instead of just ‘Andrew’ for example.
There are also a couple of unique and useful settings in both the System Command and Voice Dialer setup that I’d like to go over briefly below.
The System Command option (right) is pre-programmed with 37 system applications for both the Treo 600 and Treo 650.
Among my favourites are ‘Take Picture’ which has been absolutely hilarious to see in action as I point the Treo in front of my face then simply say the words ‘Take Picture’ and voila the Camera app loads and snaps a picture in under 5 seconds – absolutely priceless.
Additionally, there are some equally useful ones such as: Find, Prefs [Connection, Date & Time, Formats, Keyguard, Network, Sounds], Phone Redial, Mail [New & Fetch for Snapper, TreoMail, VistoMail and VersaMail] and New [Contact, Memo, SMS, ToDo, Meeting].
The Phone Dialer option (right) is fully integrated with your Contacts so that you can easily add a number. You can also write you own description or leave it automatically filled in from the Contacts.
Additionally, you can select to always have this voice dial in speaker mode and finally you can add some Extra Digits which has proven a godsend for me as I use a calling card type service for my international calls which I can now much more easily pre-program here instead of having to memorize them or write them down before dialing – it makes me think how often I wish that I could use my Treo on my home or office lines…
Overall there’s little doubt that I have found VoiceCall to be not only extremely good value, well designed, useful and simple to setup but it also triggered an epiphany as I first started playing around with it – I am now absolutely convinced that the future of mobile computing will be closely tied to advances in voice recognition technology and I would almost guarantee that in a couple of years time we’ll all be talking to our Treo… VoiceCall is certainly a very good start.
Treonauts love to get their wishes granted…