Vlingo Introduces Text-reading Function for Drivers

Vlingo fired the latest salvo in the speech recognition wars this morning with the addition of a text-reading function for its BlackBerry (s rimm) application. The Cambridge, Mass.-based startup introduced SafeReader, a feature that reads messages aloud for drivers, eliminating the need to take their hands off the wheel. Stacey tried it and says it’s pretty handy. The text-to-speech feature is included in the new Vlingo 4.5 for BlackBerry, which is available free from Research In Motion’s BlackBerry App World or directly from the developer.

Vlingo is vying for space in a field that includes powerful players such as Google (s goog), Nuance (s nuan) and Microsoft (s msft). The company recently added e-mail and SMS functionality to its popular iPhone app, and last fall the startup began integrating its technology with AT&T’s (s t) Watson in a move that could have major repercussions for a patent infringement suit brought by Nuance in 2008. Consumers are increasingly turning to speech-recognition offerings as a way to minimize keystrokes as they navigate their phones. So if Vlingo can continue to offer innovative services that make it easier for consumers to use their handsets on the go, it will continue to compete effectively against its bigger counterparts.

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Image courtesy Flickr user Lazurite.