Hitting the Road
Once we learned how to use Voice on the Go, it was time to take it out on the road. As you might of guessed by now, users interact with VOTG via voice commands, saying things like “compose email” to contact clients or “delete appointment” to edit their calendar. Obviously, VOTG’s ability to understand user commands is a major asset — made only more important because of recent changes to driving laws in many cities within North America, making it necessary for users to operate their BlackBerry via headset or speakerphone.
We tested Voice on the Go (in the BlackBerry CoolMobile: our black Porche 911 “company car”) using a BlackBerry 8100 with both speakerphone and the standard BlackBerry headset. Surprisingly, when testing the solution, we were very successful in communicating commands using both input methods. Voice on the Go rarely asked us to repeat commands, and it usually seemed due more to our colloquial Northern Ontario pronunciation of words than anything else. Low level background noise (a quiet radio, sounds of the city coming from a cracked window) were also very manageable, so unless VOTG users are clunking around in a noisy ’76 DeSoto, they should be fine.
Voice on the Go does a good job with the functionality it promotes, namely hands-free/eyes-free access to your email, calendar & contacts. As we’ve said before, using voice commands soon becomes second nature, and the VOTG operator does a good job of reading out your emails and calendar appointments to you. Once you get the handle of trusting a disembodied robot voice to help manage your business life, you’ll find quite a bit of uptime in your daily commute.
Criticisms can be found, however, in Voice on the Go’s fundamental input method, voice, or rather how VOTG utilizes voice input. Specifically, when a user replies to an email, their response is sent out as a VOTG-generated email with both a link to a .wav file that contains the audio content (Voice on the Go hosts these .wav files for 30 days) as well as an attached file. This poses some problems. For example, basic email functionality like copying and pasting pieces of the original email to forward on becomes impossible.
There are also some problems for those not using Outlook. As mentioned above, a lack of non-Outlook calendar support, or the ability to export your contacts back out of VOTG can be a pain. Another (minor, but still frustrating) problem also centers upon calendar management. Any voice-based calendar appointment added by the user will appear simply as “voice message” when viewed in VOTG’s web interface. However, the appointment provides no link to the .wav message, forcing the user to have to remember what the appointment was about, and lessening the usefulness of the calendar function. The VOTG web interface obviously isn’t (and shouldn’t be) designed to replace your existing management system, but that only makes the limited calendar support all that more troublesome.
Another problem lies in the .wav format itself. A user’s intended recipients must be able to download and listen to the .wav files for Voice on the Go to be effective. However, .wav is not supported by 71xx series (minus the 7130g, 7130c and 7100i BlackBerrys) devices, as well as all CDMA-based BlackBerrys (eg. the 8703, 8707, 8830… etc.), meaning a lot of BlackBerry users would not be able to listen to the message from their device. It seems like a strange decision for Voice on the Go to choose .wav over a format that all BlackBerrys support like .mp3. We can tell you, though, that these particular concerns, as well as the one email addy per account limit, are on Voice on the Go’s immediate roadmap, to be addresses in future solution updates.