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Old 09-21-2005, 01:20 PM
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Default Voice controllers for the Pocket PC

Voice controllers for the Pocket PC

Now that VITO has released version 1.1 of their Voice2Go (VITO for short) software and they have asked me to post an unbiased review of it, I've decided to compare it to its only alternative, Microsoft Voice Command (VC). At the same time, I also introduce genuine Voice Command hacks never ever published before to fix the problems of the startup annoyance mentioned for example here. Therefore, it's worth reading this article even for VC users that otherwise aren't interested in the VITO app at all, but suffer a lot from the autostart facility of VC, especially when installed to a memory card (which is not accessible at boot time with some users, this has even resulted in the need of a hard reset).

Isn't this an apples-to-oranges comparison, you may ask, if you already know the two apps. To a certain degree, it is, because these two programs have quite different feature sets/usage areas. However, as they have common functions (access contacts/start programs, for example), I still discuss them together.

Microsoft Voice Command (tested version: 1.5) is especially useful for native (or at least very good) US/UK English, German and French speakers that don't want to fuss with training and also want direct access to their contacts/media files/programs, by just telling the Pocket PC their name. It, however, doesn't let the user run macros / create custom passwords.

Pros:
- very good recognition rate it was able to understand my non-native (!) English about 90% of the time, with all the tested applications
- clearly better in high-noise environments than VITO; particularly with abbreviations. For example, it was almost always to recognize 'TCPMP' all letters spelled out even in a very noisy environment. On the other hand, you need to either spell all the letters in a (abbreviated) word or none of them. For example, it won't recognize SKTools if you spell it es-key-tools, only as sktools. This may be a minor annoyance.
- generally very fast the VITO app is noticeably slower to start capturing input after you press its hotkey
- as with the VITO app, start of recognition is assignable to a button
- very good at recognizing long family names not pronounced in English. For example, it could find most of the test (long) Finnish family names without problems. I didn't even try to pronounce them in a non-Finnish way. Great! Note that this only applies to long Finnish family names (I haven't tested other languages). I've tested with some short(er) Finnish christian names. It has never been able to recognize, for example, 'Tiina' (pronounced as 'tee-nah' for non-Finnish speakers) always tried to offer 'Steve' instead.) The German version may be better-suited for (as opposed to English) 'clearly and evenly pronounced, WYWIWYS (what you write is what you say)', non-Indo-European languages like Finnish or Hungarian I haven't tested this myself as I've found the English version sufficient for searching in my Finnish contacts database.
- You won't see any kind of speed degradation if you install it on an alternative medium (for example, a memory card), unlike with the VITO app.
- You don't need to train the app to be able to recognize newly-copied media files/ installed apps/added contacts on the Pocket PC.

Cons:
- always occupies about at least 4Mbyte RAM after the first start, and this will increase if you have many contacts/multimedia files. According to the System Requirements page, its dynamic memory consumption can easily be as high as 7 Mbytes with 500 contacts and 100 multimedia files on the PDA. The VITO app is much better at this its dynamic memory consumption doesn't increase with the
- always creates a Voice Command.lnk file in \Windows\Startup; you need to manually hexedit voicecmd.exe to get rid of this 'feature' see the next subsection.

How to get rid of the autostart annoyance?

1, get a hexeditor. Please read this thread on obtaining / using them when editing files on the PDA.
2, navigate to the home directory of your installed VC; copy voicecmd.exe (it's in its home install directory; for example, \Program Files\Microsoft Voice Command US PPC trial 1.50 or SD-MMCard\Microsoft Voice Command US PPC trial 1.50 with the trial 1.50) to the desktop. If it's not readable, delete \Windows\Startup\Voice Command.lnk, reset the device and try again.
3, change the (hexa) value 56 (letter V) to 00 at position hexa 30e0, as in the following two screenshots:

before

after

VITO Voice2Go 1.1 is an entirely different animal. It can't directly invoke/choose media files/contacts; it's only for actually controlling your device.

It doesn't offer 100% recognition. For example, I've almost never managed to get it recognize 'ahvenanmaa' (a Finnish county, before you ask was one of the (Finnish-only) test words I've used. I haven't used other languages in this test.)

Pros:
- especially good for non-native US/UK English, German and French speakers (albeit, as has already been pointed out, even a non-native English speaker can use even the US version of VC without major problems).
- much as continuous 'magic word' capturing recognition takes 20-30% CPU power, it's still much better than that of Voice Controller the latter has to completely rely on button-based activation
- macro defining and contact calling capabilities, known from other VITO products
- can be used to answer/dial a BT/serial/IrDA-connected phone. (I haven't managed to make it work with my t610 though I used BT. I haven't spent much time on this, however with some serious hacking, I most probably would have been able to do this.)

Cons:
- may be slow at runtime, even if you install it to RAM, in part because you can't decrease the listening time (see next bullet)
- you can't set/decrease the 'listening' time frame if you, for example, prefer very short commands. This certainly degrades responsiveness and speed of access.

You can find a comparison table here.

Bottom line:
- if you have tons of contacts/media files, get VC. It is surpirisingly good even for non-native speakers.
- if you want to invoke complex macro functions (of which, only VITO's macro apps and, incidentally, the Mort apps are capable of).

(Even negative!) feedback/questions are welcome.
 
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