VoiceWizard: the speech resource  
for executives and other adventurers exploring voice technology miracles    

IBM ViaVoice Millennium

IBM VIAVOICE HAS MADE SOME PROGRESS in scope and accuracy compared to last year's IBM ViaVoice 98. But there are still the human factors rough edges which characterize a product that has been perhaps released too soon.


Pros: Best integration with chat software, slick and professional mobile device, good recognition accuracy which really does improve over time, Linux SDK offerings, worked well with the Telex M-60 Desktop Microphone.

Cons: Counterintuitive and occasionally incorrect punctuation handling, frail keystroke and command integration with some other desktop applications, weak macro facility

Installation and Initial Enrollment

Testers did not have a uniform experience in installation. Some machines went well. Other machines got a message about a system file being open without indication of which file might be the trouble. It asked us to abort or retry several times; we retried - which worked. Another message said that we should update Internet Explorer because it had system files that IBM needed. Fine, if you like IE on your system. We wondered why IBM didn't include the files in its install procedure for people who use other browsers.

Others installations came up with an error message saying that "scrobj.dll" did not "register properly". At another point during installation, the message came up indicating that the slow machine "might not" be powerful enough to be accurate and again there was no indication in the message as to which resources might be the limiting factor. (The slow machine's accuracy turned out to be just fine despite the message.)

Our first human factors critique would be that most of the phrases contained jargon unintelligible to the beginning computer user. But, more importantly, most messages gave no indication about how the problem ought to be righted.

The installation procedure presumes that a person will always install the product in its entirety on the "C:" Drive and calculates space requirements on that assumption. In many corporate environments, applications are installed on a second partition to keep as much as possible out of the windows drive in case corruption occurs. When we did this, space requirement calculations were overstated and misleading. The installation process left several hundred K of temp files in the Windows temp directory.

Presentation of Initial Setup Cluttered

Pictures accompanying the dialog boxes of installation only occasionally bore useful relationship to the text of the dialog boxes thus wasting valuable screen real-estate with puzzling information. Our users were particularly puzzled by a picture which shows a man standing near what might be either a white board or a pull down projection screen. Misrecognition errors during training were announced by an unfamiliar and unexplained "burp" sound but scant visual indication that misrecognition has occurred.

Some testers, recognizing that they had grievously misspoken a training sentence and desiring to give their very best performance to the program, hit the "back" button in order to retrain the misspoken phrases. This action is possible in the other products. They were instead thrown back to the very beginning of the training session where training text choice is made. They had a difficult time figuring out how to return to the training track as the dialog explanations do not account for this reasonable, though unanticipated, user sequence.

Bold captions in some training texts were difficult to read because the character spacing between words was too small on an 800 by 600 monitor. The typefaces used to distinguish between recognized and as yet unprocessed words were too similar for some testers, leading them to wait unnecessarily for the machine to catch up. Some users found the black text on grey presentation difficult to read on low gamma monitors. The buttons at the bottom of dialog boxes for completing options settings were sometimes completely obscured by the Windows task bar thus requiring some complex manual screen real-estate management in order to access the buttons.

Strange Timing Estimates

The installation program displayed a message estimating 15 minutes of computer time required to process the training text. But on the fast machine that time was 6 minutes; on the slow machines it was 45 minutes. So it would appear that "15" is a fixed alphanumeric string rather than any real estimate derived by determining the computer's actual processing power. This is not so unhappy when the actual processing time is shorter than 15. But when it is longer than 15, the behavior confused our testers.

It was especially confusing because after about 10 minutes on the slow machine, the installation program displayed congratulatory messages for finishing the training process and invited one to begin as a new user. When the tester clicked the OK button, a new message came up that said processing was not finished so the new user could not be initiated. When that OK button was clicked, all dialog boxes disappeared leaving the desktop empty but the disk drives still whirring.

It required a check with the windows Task Manager to verify that voice model processing was still continuing and further checks were required to determine when processing had really finished. We would not expect the naive user to have navigated this sequence well. This misstatement of completion time and the false completion messages continued in other training sessions.

You are here>: Introduction
More: Ongoing Training Process...
More: Dictation into the SpeakPad Applet...
More: Text to Speech Performance...
More: Integration With Other Applications...



You are here::
Technology Review
What's Out There
Executive View
Developer View
Hot Products
At This Site
Who We Are
Wish List
Product Reviews
Report New Bug
Bugs on File
Consulting Services

Other Stuff
Case Studies
How We Test
For Vendors Only
Copyright © 1999-2002 VoiceWizard
Comments? Questions? to voicemaster@voicewizard.com

Page Last Updated: 12/05/99