Web surfers may be able to talk to their computers one day using a browser announced Tuesday by Opera Software.
OSLO, NorwayWeb surfers may be able to talk to their
computers one day using a browser announced Tuesday by Opera
The new browser incorporates IBMs ViaVoice technology, enabling
the computer to ask what the user wants and "listen" to the
"Hi. I am your browser. What can I do for you?" asked a laptop
with the demonstration versions of the browser.
The message can be personalized, such as greeting users by name.
The computer learns to recognize users voices, accents and
inflections by having them read a list of words into a microphone.
Opera declined to give a launch date.
"Voice is the most natural and effective way we communicate,"
said Christen Krogh, head of Operas software development. "In the
years to come, it will greatly facilitate how we interact with
Opera is the third-largest browser on the Web. Although tiny
compared to Internet Explorer and Netscape, it has been gaining
ground as the browser of choice for handheld devices because it is
fast and needs little memory.
The demonstration version, so far only in English, is still far
from normal casual conversation.
After listening to the computers question, users have to wait
for a tiny beep before stating their request.
But the computer displayed an ability to pick out key words in
one demonstration. Tell the computer "get pizza" and a window
popped up with a pizza order form, as the machine asked to take the
"I would like a medium pizza with extra cheese, mushrooms and
salami," a tester told the machine.
The machine checked off the appropriate boxes on the form, but
interpreted "a pizza" as "eight pizzas." Then it asked for
confirmation and corrected the number when told the order was for
It corresponds to simple commands. For example, say "Get AP"
and the browser brings up the Web page for The Associated Press.
"The new offering will allow us to interact with the content on
the Web in a more natural way, first on PCs and in the near future
on devices such as cell phones and PDAs," or personal digital
assistants, said IBMs director of embedded speech, Igor Jablokov.
Krogh said the voice technology could open up the Internet to
users who had been physically unable to use a keyboard.
Opera plans to first launch an English version of the voice
browser for computers running the Windows operating system.
Versions for other systems, including handhelds, will follow.