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-- by Martin Heller
Like Star Trek's Captain Kirk, you, too, can control computers with voice commands. VoiceTools allows Visual Basic programmers to add voice recognition to their applications using ActiveX controls.
Programmers work with five controls: Sonar Tool handles communication between the application and the speech-recognition engine; List Assist is a voice-enabled list box; Press Panel is a voice-enabled 3D panel and button; Voice Window is a free-dictation edit control; and Voice Notator is a voice-activated sound recording and playback control.
If you're not a VB programmer, you might want to check out DragonXTools, another speech-recognition library that includes Visual C++ libraries and OLE Custom controls.
Since you're working with VB in VoiceTools, the programming aspect is no different from other Visual Basic applications. However, your design will be limited by the capabilities of the included IBM VoiceType Dictation System. IBM VoiceType handles voice input, but it doesn't support speech synthesis (as does DragonXTools' DragonDictate system)
Applications built with VoiceTools ultimately have limited uses. The commands need to be specific, and the settings in which they're used must be pretty quiet. A microphone that cancels background noise should be mandatory.
Even with an ideal setup, however, command recognition can be problematic. All speech-recognition systems require that you train your application to recognize word pronunciations. However, with VoiceTools, the end user may also have to do some speaker-dependent training if there's a large vocabulary.
Though immature, speech-recognition technology is improving by leaps and bounds, and VoiceTools makes it easy to get on board despite its imperfect voice recognition and lack of speech synthesis.
Windows Magazine, October 1997, page 160.