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Voice-recognition gadget smiles, dials

By Shoshana Berger
Business 2.0

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(Business 2.0) -- As cellular technology sprints forward at breakneck speeds, the humble landline telephone keeps getting lapped.

The only two breakthroughs since touch-tone dialing that come to mind are voice recognition (passable at best), and everyone's favorite telemarketing-buster -- caller ID. The nifty new Tell A Phone from Parliant does both from a purple see-through plastic box the size of a bar of soap. After jacking it into my computer (via USB) and a phone line, and after performing a quick software install, I was calling out names into thin air on phones all over the house.

OK, so the first time I try calling my sister, Maya, it calls my mom. (Does the Tell A Phone register Freudian slips?) But the smart "sounds like" feature fixes that by allowing me to tweak '70s-era names that aren't pronounced the way they're spelled. ("Sounds like 'Iya.'")

Overall, it's pretty accurate without any training -- at least enough to dial for my co-worker from Bawston. Plus, it imports my phone numbers from Outlook in a jiff and announces my incoming calls by name in a HAL-like computer voice. (This function, as well as the ID box that pops up on the screen, requires a subscription to caller-ID service.)

Bonus for telecommuters: Tell A Phone logs all your calls by name, date, and duration, so you can claim reimbursement for business calls down to the penny. Then you can export those logged numbers back into your organizer of choice (it supports Palm Desktop, Outlook, ACT, Lotus, and more).

The Tell A Phone even records voice memos for playback. The catch? It works only when your computer is booted up. But you never shut down anyway, right? Tell A Phone: Available (for PCs only) in stores starting Oct. 21. $100.

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