Samsung’s P207 Speaks Out

samsung p207I’ve spent the last four days toying with the Samsung P207, and it has convinced me that soon I will never physically type another text message again. Otherwise an unremarkable EDGE-capable, $79 clamshell phone—the Samsung P207 comes bundled with some innovative voice recognition software that translates speech into text, promising to take the pain out of text messaging via mobile phones. Amazingly, the speech recognition technology works. Very well. Developed by VoiceSignal, a Massachusetts based startup, the P207’s software is easy to set up, and even easier to use. First I calibrated the phone to recognize my voice, and speech patterns. To do this, I spoke a series of 122 words and phrases into the receiver while holding down the camera button on outside of the phone—this button activates a “talk” feature, much like using a walkie-talkie. As instructed, I spoke slowly, leaving hard pauses between each word, giving the software time to recognize each word. The whole process took about three minutes, after which I was told the P207 could “recognize” my voice.

From there, I was ready to speak my first text message. Sending it was almost anticlimactic for its simplicity. I just hit “create new text message” on the P207’s menu, held down the camera key and started jabbering—slowly. Speaking slowly and clearly is paramount—failure to hesitate between each word lead to some amusing translation problems.
I’m not sure how large the P207’s word library is—I’m guessing several thousand words—but the P207 automatically recognized most words, including proper names and multi-syllabic words such as “facilitate” and “consequences”. There were misunderstandings of course, but the software made it easy to remove unintended words, and usually offered
additional suggestions for words. All I had to do was hit “0” on the keypad, and the phone would usually provide a few alternatives. You can also spell out additional words via the keypad to “teach” the phone to recognize new words. Overall, it’s a remarkably useful application. (And to answer the question I can already hear you asking: No, the P207 doesn’t know any really good swear words out of the box. But it *can* be taught.)

Without getting too breathless, Samsung is onto something with this feature. Not only does the P207 represent a significant evolution for voice recognition—making text messaging far easier—it’s also easy to envision how this software will soon make sending emails and multi-step commands via mobile phones far more viable. Expect to see
this feature in many upcoming Samsung devices.

Review by Matt Maier, wireless and gizmo correspondent for Business 2.0 magazine. Subscribe to his Weekly Wireless Report.