Voice Trek is the latest Home Automation software which incorporates voice control. It uses Dragon Dictate as it’s voice program and can be used only with the X-10 Active Home controller. The basic single room system arrives from Advanced Home Automation with the following:
Calrad HDTV Accessories
Voice Trek 1.0
* DragonDictate 2.52 Singles Edition
* TruVoice Text To Speech 2.5
* ActiveHome 1.3
* Desktop Microphone
* HASP Security Key
Installing Voice Trek proved to be a bit of a task. The developers chose to use a HASP security key which is a device that must be plugged into your parallel port. This in itself is not a problem and works fine … I just find it to be a bit of a hassle to remember but I suppose that is not an issue as long as you only use one system that requires it.
The setup program asks for a serial number, verifies the HASP and proceeds to install the components of the system. Be sure to read the instructions carefully during this process. Firstly, Dragon Dictate installs, then TrueVoice Text to Speech, then ActiveHome and finally VoiceTrek. Now you restart the PC and proceed to setup the voice recognition system by adjusting microphone volume and training Dragon Dictate to understand your voice. This process can take some time so don’t start this installation during a commercial in your favorite sitcom.
Dragon Dictate trains itself by having you repeat several words as it prompts you. There are about 100 or so words that Voice Trek wants you to train into the system.
OK, now we can launch the program and see what it’s all about. The main screen looks just like ActiveHome with some Dragon Dictate stuff tacked onto the bottom.
wpe1.jpg (38286 bytes)
To set up your X10 modules you’ll be using ActiveHome so I won’t go into that here. Instead, have a look at the review I did way back in October of ’96. There are some new features etc. and you will need to train the system to understand the names of your devices as you create them, but the basics are the same so let’s get on with it and learn about the voice features of Voice Trek.
The first thing to note is that Voice Trek can only control devices in one house code at a time. I’m told that this was done to increase recognition accuracy … a logical argument however, I feel that this is quite limiting and requires that you and all other users know which devices are on which housecodes. In addition, you must use assigned code words to change from one housecode to another (a = arizona, b = boston etc.). For example you must say “Monitor Housecode boston” to get the system to recognize the devices on housecode “b”. I just know my better half ain’t gonna like that one and she’ll never remember that the bedroom lamp is on housecode Jacksonville (nor should she have to).
Controlling devices in the selected house code is easy but you must know the correct phrases to use. For example “Turn on Coach Lamp” commands the lamp on and “Shut off Coach Lamp” turns it off. “Set Coach Lamp to 75%” … Brighten Coach Lamp by 10%” etc. Once you learn the key phrases you’re all set and with proper training, the voice recognition is quite accurate.
Fortunately, Macros can be activated at any time without resetting a house code. The code words to activate a macro is “Set Stage” so, if you say “Set Stage Going to Bed” for example, Voice Trek will execute the Going to Bed macro.
The system can be told to remind you (every x minutes) that a unit has been turned on. This is handy and important to avoid leaving appliances on (i.e. coffee maker) etc. The system says “The Coffee Maker is on. Would you like to turn it off?” A simple Yes or No will do the action. By the way, you can personalize Voice Trek by adjusting the voice that it talks to you in as well as some of the response sentences.
Voice Trek has several built in commands as well to carry out various tasks and start / stop listening. For example, “What time is it?”, “What’s today?”etc. “Enter Command Mode” wakes up the system and “Go to Sleep” or “ThankYou” will take the system off line.
If you have a voice modem, the Emergency Call feature can be programmed to call an emergency number and read a message to the answering party.
To change users (have Voice Trek recognize a new voice) you assign each user a unit code and send an ON signal for that code using a manual device such as a keypad or remote control. Each user must have trained Dragon Dictate to understand the control words of course. This is a bit tedious and it may take a few moments for Dragon Dictate to recognize the new user.
The Voice Trek system reviewed here is a single room system using a PC microphone plugged into the PC. Retail Price is $299. Multi room systems are also available.