Bell Atlantic unveils voice-activated plan Service available in area by Jan. 1

November 07, 1995|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Before the end of the year, all you'll have to do to call Mom is to tell your phone, "Call Mom."

Bell Atlantic Corp. announced yesterday that it has introduced a new voice recognition technology that will let weary-fingered customers bypass their rotary dials or Touch-Tone buttons and simply tell the phone system whom to call.

The new Easy Voice service, introduced yesterday in Northern Virginia, will be available in the Baltimore area by Jan. 1, said Bell Atlantic spokeswoman Shirley Risoldi. The service will gradually roll out throughout the company's mid-Atlantic territory.

The system, provided by Texas Instruments Inc., lets customers record up to 50 names and telephone numbers into the Easy Voice directory, the Philadelphia-based telephone company said. The service will cost $3.75 a month, with the first month free for customers who sign up during the introductory period.

Bell Atlantic product manager Melissa Stoner said the consumer reaction to the service had been "very positive" during trials.

"People comment consistently that this product is fun. It makes life easier," said Ms. Stoner.

Once the system is in place and names and numbers have been recorded, the caller who picks up the phone will hear two seconds of dial tone, then a beep, then silence, said Ms. Stoner. At that point the customer can say "Call Joe at home" and the system will recall Joe's home number and place the call -- whether Joe lives in Baltimore, Md., or Baltimore, Ohio, or Baltimore, Ireland.

Ms. Risoldi said the computer software that runs the system will only be able to recognize the name and connect it with the number if it is spoken by the same voice that recorded it originally.

Thus, a couple who both called a local pizzeria regularly would have to record the number separately. On the other hand, each could record "call Mom" and get the correct mother.

William Meisel, editor of Speech Recognition Update in Encino, Calif., said that several other regional telephone companies are using voice recognition.

Mr. Meisel said that talking to machines and having them obey will soon be a common experience in people's lives.

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