If its performance during a recent demonstration at Microsoft’s annual Financial Analyst Meeting (FAM) is any indication, a voice-recognition feature in Windows Vista is not quite ready for prime time.
An interactive voice response (IVR) system in Vista that is supposed to allow a user to dictate text into a Microsoft Word document did not work as expected at the demonstration. It failed to correctly recognise what the Microsoft team-member was saying on several occasions, the results inspiring laughter from the crowd of analysts and journalists attending the day-long meeting.
When the Microsoft employee told the software to type, “Dear mom,” it typed “Dear aunt” instead. When he told the software to “fix aunt”, it typed “let’s set” instead, and then failed to respond to several prompts of “delete that” in an effort to fix the error. The software experienced several other glitches before the demonstration ended.
Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Kirkland, Washington, research firm Directions on Microsoft, was “surprised” Microsoft would demonstrate the IVR feature of Vista at FAM.
“It’s not something they made a big deal about and not something we’re following as a big reason to upgrade to Vista,” he says. “If it had worked perfectly, it would have been great. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.”
Rosoff says the feature is the result of new voice-recognition APIs (application programming interfaces) Microsoft is building into Vista that will allow users to dictate instead of type content into Office applications such as Word and PowerPoint.
Microsoft’s public relations firm says the company will not comment on the failed demo.
IVR is just one of a host of enhancements that will be available in Windows Vista, which Microsoft executives said at FAM is still on track to be available to business customers in November, and consumers in January 2007.
However, the company seemed to hint that Vista’s release could slip again, as Kevin Johnson, co-president of Microsoft’s Platforms & Services Division, said at the meeting that the OS will not ship until “it’s ready”, even if that means it does not meet the current target for release.