Giving Voice to Bluetooth Headsets

 
 
Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr Rapoza's current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.
By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2008-08-29 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

BlueAnt V1

I've never been a big fan of Bluetooth mobile phone headsets. Typically, the second I stick one of those geeky devices in my ear I start making Locutus of Borg jokes.

Combine this with the general poor usability of these devices and it's been pretty easy for me to avoid assimilation by the Bluetooth-wearing collective. But I've recently had the opportunity to test out a new device that may change my opinion on Bluetooth headsets.

At first glance the BlueAnt V1 looks just like any other Bluetooth headset, with its standard ear clip and blinking button. But there's one major difference. The BlueAnt V1 can be pretty much totally controlled through voice commands.

The BlueAnt V1 is powered by the BlueGenie Voice Interface software that can remarkably work on such a small and simple device. With this software, the BlueAnt V1 comes pretty close to a fully hands-free mobile phone experience and justifies the device's $129.99 price tag.

Getting up and running with the BlueAnt V1 was very easy. I simply turned it on using the big BlueAnt button on the device, stuck it in my ear and said "pair me". The device then talked me through pairing with my Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones.

The BlueAnt V1 comes with a manual that lists the possible commands but even easier is to just say "what can I say" which prompts the device to give a list of possible voice commands.

Using the BlueAnt V1 I could answer or ignore calls by simply saying "answer" or "ignore." I could also call numbers by saying "call home," "call voicemail," "call office," etc.

The BlueAnt V1 handles this through your phone's speed dial list. To get this to work, on your phone you'll need to set up your voicemail as speed dial 1, your home number as speed dial 2, office as 3, your favorite number as 4. The phone uses the space for speed dial 5 for the Goog-411 service. To call speed dial numbers above 5, the voice command is simply "call speed dial 6" (or whatever the number is).

Answering calls can be done without any hands interaction using the BlueAnt V1. To initiate calls or any other voice commands did require a single push of the button on the device.

While the BlueAnt V1 has its own voice commands, I could also get the device to work with phones that had their own voice controls simply by saying "phone commands" at which point all of my voice commands went directly to the phone.

Along with commands associated with calls, most management of the BlueAnt V1 can also be done by voice commands, including checking the battery charge and putting the headset into an isolation mode.

Aside from the voice control features, the BlueAnt V1 is overall a solid headset, not too large and geeky looking and with good isolation capabilities for noisy environments. The device can be charged using standard USB cables and with the bundled charger.

I was surprised how often I used the BlueAnt V1 given my normal resistance to Bluetooth headsets. Its quickly become my favored device for driving, as I can leave my phone in a bag or pocket and still make and receive calls.

And while I'm still a little uncomfortable walking through crowds with an implant sticking out of my head, the convenience of using my voice to make commands without fumbling for a phone or earphones is pretty compelling.

So maybe I will become a regular Bluetooth headset user. I guess resistance really is futile. For more information on the BlueAnt V1 headset go to myblueant.com.

 
 
 
 
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