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Summary:

I’ve spent the last four days toying with the Samsung P207, and it has convinced me that soon I will never physically type another text message again. Otherwise an unremarkable EDGE-capable, $79 clamshell phone—the Samsung P207 comes bundled with some innovative voice recognition software that translates […]

samsung p207I’ve spent the last four days toying with the Samsung P207, and it has convinced me that soon I will never physically type another text message again. Otherwise an unremarkable EDGE-capable, $79 clamshell phone—the Samsung P207 comes bundled with some innovative voice recognition software that translates speech into text, promising to take the pain out of text messaging via mobile phones. Amazingly, the speech recognition technology works. Very well. Developed by VoiceSignal, a Massachusetts based startup, the P207′s software is easy to set up, and even easier to use. First I calibrated the phone to recognize my voice, and speech patterns. To do this, I spoke a series of 122 words and phrases into the receiver while holding down the camera button on outside of the phone—this button activates a “talk” feature, much like using a walkie-talkie. As instructed, I spoke slowly, leaving hard pauses between each word, giving the software time to recognize each word. The whole process took about three minutes, after which I was told the P207 could “recognize” my voice.

From there, I was ready to speak my first text message. Sending it was almost anticlimactic for its simplicity. I just hit “create new text message” on the P207′s menu, held down the camera key and started jabbering—slowly. Speaking slowly and clearly is paramount—failure to hesitate between each word lead to some amusing translation problems.
I’m not sure how large the P207′s word library is—I’m guessing several thousand words—but the P207 automatically recognized most words, including proper names and multi-syllabic words such as “facilitate” and “consequences”. There were misunderstandings of course, but the software made it easy to remove unintended words, and usually offered
additional suggestions for words. All I had to do was hit “0″ on the keypad, and the phone would usually provide a few alternatives. You can also spell out additional words via the keypad to “teach” the phone to recognize new words. Overall, it’s a remarkably useful application. (And to answer the question I can already hear you asking: No, the P207 doesn’t know any really good swear words out of the box. But it *can* be taught.)

Without getting too breathless, Samsung is onto something with this feature. Not only does the P207 represent a significant evolution for voice recognition—making text messaging far easier—it’s also easy to envision how this software will soon make sending emails and multi-step commands via mobile phones far more viable. Expect to see
this feature in many upcoming Samsung devices.

Review by Matt Maier, wireless and gizmo correspondent for Business 2.0 magazine. Subscribe to his Weekly Wireless Report.

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  1. But Om, is this a feature people will use often? Text messaging is a silent activity for most mobile users. I doubt people will use this feature in most circumstances. I would find a la one way nextel a little weird in public. But that’s just me..

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  2. Jesse Kopelman Tuesday, April 19, 2005

    Considering that talk time is now as cheap as texting, I don’t see the advantage of texting someone in this fashion. I think I’d rather have the reverse where it could read a text message to me, for those time where my eyes are otherwise occupied.

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  3. For those of us who have not mastered the art of texting blindfolded, this is a great feature. Sure you text aloud, but I have not noticed any trend for people to tone down their live conversations or when they leave a message so how is this really so much different? Just because the recipient will read the message instead of hearing it?

    I’m not sure why there is any resistance at all to texting aloud other than people have a natural inclination to resist change. This is just the next step in the evolution of using this technology as far as I can tell.

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  4. Jesse Kopelman Tuesday, April 19, 2005

    But Ron, why would you text someone aloud when you could just leave them a voice mail?

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  5. sometimes i will text someone when I know they are in a meeting. They cant check their voice mail. Ditto with some of my other friends who can be at work (retail) and want to check messages easily.

    also think about people who message alot via their cell phone on y! and aol.

    i will keep my eye out for this phone…

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  6. Jesse:

    My guess is that SMS is a little less intrusive and, therefore, used differently than voicemail. Folks that really want an immediate answer will call, those that don’t necessarily need an immediate response can text… I dunno, I suppose it differs from person to person (and situation), but I feel like the two serve different (albeit similar) purposes.

    Matt

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  7. Samsung P207 Review – Gigacom

    Matt from Gigacom writes a review of the Samsung P207 and reports – ‘I’ve spent the last four days toying with the Samsung P207, and it has convinced me that soon I will never physically type another text message again….

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  8. Jesse Kopelman Wednesday, April 20, 2005

    Rob, I agree this would be useful for IMing, but I don’t think that feature is in this phone. SMS

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  9. Jesse Kopelman Wednesday, April 20, 2005

    SMS is not the same, or as good for that matter, as IM. Again for this feature to be really useful, it needs to be on the receive end. It would be great to switch my phone into a silent mode where all incoming speech becomes text and a no look mode where the reverse occurs. There is not as much utility in having this feature on the send side.

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  10. i need a dam cell phone people!

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