Why the TellMe App Might Suck

The TellMe folks have a new demo video out of their TellMe software for Windows Mobile. WMexperts thinks this will replace Microsoft Voice Command which hasn’t seen an update in many years (yet is still the best voice recognition & text to speech interface on any mobile device.) Is the TellMe service really worthy?

First of all, Voice Command will do a lot of things for me that are time sensitive. It will speak my appointment reminders at the time they are set. It will read my text messages to me over Bluetooth. It will tell me who is calling in plain English so I don’t have to look at the phone or set up custom ring tones to know who it is. Then if I need something from my phone, Voice Command is usually capable after a one-touch activation of listening mode via a Bluetooth headset button. I can ask it about my next appointments. I can tell it to play music from a certain artist, album, or genre. I can ask it to call someone or tell me what time it is. All of this can be done WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCREEN and without touching the device. That’s a very important point. With Microsoft Voice Command, you can do plenty of essential mobility tasks without touching any part of the phone or taking your eyes off of your current task be it driving a car or riding a motorcycle. The TellMe application does not seem to offer that capability. I don’t hear it speaking back to the user to confirm actions. I don’t hear it re-read the text message I want to send in order to confirm that’s what I want to send. In fact, he actually has to touch the screen in order to send the text message! It would seem that most of TellMe’s capabilities require visual feedback rather than audible… and that’s absolutely unacceptable for a voice interface.

The next problem seems to be that the TellMe service requires a data connection. The most likely circumstances for using a voice controlled interaction interface is while operating a motor vehicle. While operating a motor vehicle you’re most likely to be travelling through areas where the data connection is unstable or non-existent. Isn’t that exactly the usage scenario where you would need a voice controlled interface the most?

I seriously hope this is not Microsoft’s next generation voice command interface, because it is nowhere near sufficient for mobility.

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002. Read more about Adam Lein!