StartTalking lets you text with just your voice

Texting while driving is a serious safety problem, so much so that the activity is now banned in 30 states in the United States.How dangerous is it? The U.S. Department of Transportation says that drivers who do anything with a hand-held device increase the risk of getting in an injury crash by four times–a concept that can be easy to ignore if you’ve gotten away with it unscathed.A company called AdelaVoice, based out of East Falmouth, Massachusetts–a state where beginning tomorrow, texting while driving will become up to a $500 offense, has come up with a solution for the problem, called StartTalking. Instead of paying attention to your phone, you’ll just be able to talk to it, and have it send what you say as a text. Likewise, when someone sends you a message, it will read it back.Does it work? Most of the time, yes. And maybe best of all, it’s free of charge.Once installed on your Android phone (the company plans to offer it on other platforms, like the iPhone, and BlackBerry soon), it runs quietly in the background and listens for voice prompts to begin an action. The two prompts that are coming in this first iteration of the product are “computer” and “operator,” though in future versions you’ll be able to program in whatever word you want.After you’ve picked the prompt, it’s as simple as saying “operator: text message for (insert name of your friend here).” It confirms you want to send a message to that person, and then you just begin speaking. When you’re done talking, it runs that speech through conversion, and plays it back for you. You then have the option to re-record, add to it, send, or get rid of the message entirely.When new messages arrive, the app alerts you to the fact, and offers to read them back to you. Other commands also let you listen to other messages in your in-box, clear a conversation log, read the time out loud, and even send out status updates to both Facebook and Twitter. The whole time this is going on, the phone can have its screen off, and be well away from your line of sight.Besides text, the service lets users send and receive audio messages. These can be anywhere from just a few seconds to 10 minutes. Just like text messages, you can begin a voice recording with a voice prompt, and the person who gets that message does not have to have StartTalking installed to listen to them. Instead, that audio file is hosted and will play back in the recipient’s mobile Web browser.To get its database of names from your phone, it can either slurp in your contact list, or you can select the names, and Google contact groups you want it to learn. We tested it with around a dozen names, and the whole process took just a couple of minutes. At any point you can also go in to add or remove people.One thing to keep in mind is that the more people add, the more chances there are for it to mistake your prompts for someone else. This happened several times, not only with names, but with actions. For instance, saying “send message” at the end of an SMS to a contact ended up canceling that action, and causing me to have to re-record the entire thing all over again. That is the sort of thing where if it happens more than once while you’re driving, you’re likely to get frustrated . .

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