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Microsoft Keeps Talking About Speech Recognition in Windows

Many years ago -- well, back in the mid-'90s -- your editor slipped into a conference room where a demo of Office (or maybe even Windows 98) was taking place at a trade show. Somebody from Microsoft was showing how speech-recognition software would work integrated into Office and Windows.

Or not work, as the case was. The demo went about as well as those recent negotiations on the debt ceiling, and somebody in the audience asked when speech might actually be integrated into a release of Office or Windows. Not for quite a while, the Microsoft person said. It wasn't ready. Your editor strolled back to the press room and wrote a brief story on the whole deal -- and, for some reason, that little story got picked up all over the Web (such as it was back then). People were fascinated, we suppose, by the notion of speech recognition being native in an OS -- or even working at all.

Fast forward nearly 15 years, and...we're still waiting for speech recognition to really, actually, seriously work. Mary Jo Foley reported last week that Microsoft is trying to work all sort of speech capabilities into Windows 8, as well as into other offerings. Yes, Windows 7 handles some speech stuff, but not much.

We have a couple of problems with all of this, as you might imagine. First, although some people swear by speech software (and we do see its obvious application for blind people), your editor has never been able to get it to work. It's that simple. Beyond that, we're not sure we want to talk to our computers, TVs or whatever -- and we're pretty sure that we don't want everybody else in the office (or even at home) chatting away with the electronic devices. Typing (even on one of those little virtual keyboards) is fine, as is pointing a remote at the TV.

Microsoft wants us to touch our computer screens with Windows 8, something we find pretty bizarre (see "Windows 8: Put It on Tablets, Keep It Off PCs"), and now we're supposed to talk to our machines, too. We at RCPU say leave that stuff for spouses or pets or whatever. The day we start chatting with our PC is the day we realize we've finally reached the crest of insanity. Not that the speech-recognition software would work, anyway.

Posted by Lee Pender on August 15, 2011 at 11:57 AM


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