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War of words heats up

L&H plans mobile speech-recognition device

Software maker Lernout & Hauspie is developing a digital Dictaphone with Olympus in a bid to keep pace with IBM in the race for supremacy in the voice-recognition market.

L&H intends the device to work with its NaturallySpeaking voice-recognition package to turn dictated words into text which can be downloaded straight to a word processor.

The venture follows the success of a similar range of Dictaphone-style devices IBM brought out with Olympus in the spring, including the 70g DS-320 (pictured) launched at the IT tradeshow CeBit earlier this year.

Ana Machado da Silva, product manager for L&H, said that of all the digital recording products the company had looked at, Olympus' worked the best with voice recognition.

"We're talking to Olympus now about working together," said da Silva. "We like Sony too, but for price and quality we think Olympus is the one to go for."

The Olympus DS-320 is a portable digital Dictaphone that works with IBM's ViaVoice speech recognition software and requires the usual training to teach it to understand the speaker's accent and intonation. The DS-320 can record up to 150 minutes of speech. Finished files are then downloaded to a PC via a cable.

The DS-320 is £179.99 inc VAT, and the cable is another £60. Superior models with external memory, designed for use by professional journalists or lawyers, include the £400 DS-3000.

Meanwhile, ramping up efforts in its speech technology products and research, IBM has already crowned itself winner of the race and renamed its portfolio of voice-recognition systems Conversational Services.

Over the next two quarters it plans to roll out more products including speech translation and natural language understanding as well as a text-to-speech software.

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