Product Reviews

Product Reviews

In Brief

Stylish product sounds good but has limitations. Hardware is slick, software is getting better.


Price

$199

ArialPhone
Mundelein, Ill.


Latest  News

On August 19, 2002, ArialPhone introduced new software that turns its telephone communications device into a wearable, wireless microphone for the PC. The company also slashed the price to $199 from $399.


 

Communications gear

ArialPhone Voice-Activated Headset

Rating:

By Joel Shore

March 15, 2002

 

I’m on the phone for hours every day—and my neck was always sore. First to go was that phone’s handset, replaced by a more comfortable headset. But I was still tethered by that darn cord. The solution? A wireless headset. Not just one without wires—there are dozens of those—but one that’s smart enough to know about the hundreds of phone numbers stored in my Outlook database.

One solution is the ArialPhones voice-activated wireless headset, which combines wireless operation and speech recognition technology into a one-ounce earpiece that works with many PC contact management programs.

ArialPhone consists of three components: the earpiece (a headset with an earpiece and boom-mounted microphone), voice-dialing software, and a hardware base station that you connect to your phone line and to a USB port on your PC. The earpiece communicates with the base station via a 900MHz digital spread spectrum radio frequency link, just like most modern cordless phones. The maximum range is about 150 feet.

To use the ArialPhone, you press the headset’s “action button.” This lets the base station know you’re about to speak a voice command. You then  say the magic words, instructing the ArialPhone software to access your Outlook phone directory. The call is then placed as directed.

I found the need to reach up behind my ear to press the action button a bit annoying. It’s necessary, especially if you’re a hundred feet away from your PC, but it seemed a little weird to me.

Another limitation might be the size of your Outlook database. For best performance, ArialPhone recommends that you have no more than about 500 contacts. That could be a problem for people who are on the phone a lot. But with nearly 2,200 contacts in my Outlook database I didn’t have a problem.

6

To use the ArialPhone, press the headset’s “action button” then speak the magic words to search your Outlook database.

5

A rechargeable lithium-ion battery powers the earset, good enough for two to three hours of talk time. Recharge time is about two hours. The base station has two charging slots and comes with two batteries, so you’ll always have a fully charged battery ready to go.

There’s not much in the way of printed documentation. An illustrated booklet leads you through the steps to get the hardware installed, charged up, and ready to use. Everything you need to know about actually using the ArialPhone to make calls is contained in the ArialPhone software application.

ArialPhone requires no customization and is ready to use “out of the box.” Through the use of speaker-independent voice recognition technology, the device enables the use of intuitive and natural language-based commands, eliminating the need for any voice training prior to operation. And, no PC integration on the part of the user is necessary: ArialPhone accesses PC-resident contact management systems via a dynamic interface. Currently, ArialPhone Corp. offers such an interface to Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, with interfaces to other leading contact managers slated for availability soon.

FUTURE PLANS

While the current software is set up to work only with ArialPhone, its “open platform” design will enable third-party developers to use the company’s voice user interface to power their vertical market software applications. Remote dictation of medical notes, completion of legal forms and public safety documentation are only a few of the numerous possible future applications envisioned by ArialPhone management through third-party development efforts. Because of its modular design, the ArialPhone software will also be able to work with headset devices from other manufacturers in the future. Future ArialPhone applications will enable Internet calling and voice control of digital entertainment and other home automation functions, such as changing TV channels; recording TV programs; controlling digital music players, set top boxes and cable modems; and even turning lights off and on.<

 
Yeas & Nays

Yea:

4Easy installation

4Clear, radio-based signal

4Reasonably comfortable

Nay:

4Doesn't work with digital phone lines or cell phones

4Pushing headset-mounted action button every time you want to speak a command can get annoying


Who's it For?

The ArialPhone device is pretty darned clever. If a name and number is in your Outlook database, ArialPhone will dial it on your spoken command.

It's a good product for a home office, where you'll be dialing on a regular analog telephone line. In an office environment where you're just an extension connected to a digital PBX, the ArialPhone isn't the right choice. And with many people using their cell phone as their business line, or as their only telephone, ArialPhone won't work there, either..

 

   

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