I've learned that Microsoft's next major version of Office--now known simply as Office 10--will feature next generation voice recognition technology. Office 10 will be the first Microsoft product to ship with voice dictation capabilities that surpass simple command navigation. In Office 10, you will be able to navigate around the PC with commands, such as open, save, send and the like, but you'll also be able to dictate letters, email and other Office documents.
The technology that makes this possible comes from Microsoft's Speech Product Group (SPG), which is currently working with several other Microsoft product groups on designing and implementing speech interfaces into their products, and a Belgian company called Lernout & Hauspie (L&H). Current Microsoft products that feature speech interfaces include the screen reader speech synthesizer in Encarta 99, the Windows 2000 Narrator, the speech recognition recognizer in the Auto PC (which is Windows CE-based), the speech recognition recognizer in Microsoft Phone (now discontinued) and some Web-based speech controls for Web browsers.
"\[Microsoft and L&H have\] developed text-to-speech applications for Encarta, Windows 2000, and we're also going to do that in the version of Office that'll follow Office 2000," says L&H director Bernard Vergnes. "\[In Office 10\] we're dealing with basic technology in which we make the interface of \[the\] various programs more attractive and user-friendly using speech technology."
Microsoft Research has been investigating a variety of more natural computer interfaces, including voice technology, for some time. At his Fall Comdex keynote in 1996, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates showed off an advanced technology demo of a future version of Office that would use interactive agents to communicate using voice technology. That day seems to be upon us