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Toys for T.O.T.s

Kevin Ryan

Robert Irizarry reviewed his Timex data watch in last month's AJ, and in the spirit of childish one-upmanship (we are in good company with the Newt and Slick Clint), I thought I'd review my new toy, the Voice Organizer. This little black box is the shape of a thin Dove soap bar and records voice messages, sets them to a time in the future with your voice input and repeats them back to you later.

I am apt to write down a list of things to do, and then leave the list at home in the morning rush to the sardine train. When I saw the write-up in WIRED magazine for the Voice Organizer, I thought this might be a solution. On the plane to the US there was in ad in the in-flight magazine, so I ordered one.

The Voice Organizer from Voice Powered Technology is distributed through The Sharper Image and that unpronounceable German-sounding catalog sales outfit. It is essentially a hand-held voice-activated agenda and reminder. It fits nicely in the palm of your hand and has four buttons along the top, and eight on the front face. There is a small two-line display screen on the front, just above the speaker-microphone holes.

Basic functions: Reminders - you record your voice, and play it back whenever you want. A tapeless tape recorder. Ho hum. Neat thing you can do with this is set the reminder to beep you at a certain time. You enter the time and date in with your voice "five fifteen AM two five December" to get that reminder to put the presents under the Christmas tree. If it screws up on the December and displays November, say "NO" and it tries again, matching the closest possible one.

The beep goes off at the specified time, and every five minutes for the next half hour, then switches to every half hour (just hit one of the buttons to shut it up if you are in a meeting). Then hit the play button to get that pearl of wisdom and foresight you recorded earlier.

You can make recurring reminders, too; "Take your vitamins" for the same time each day, week or month. You can use the calendar function to review all the messages you sent yourself for any particular day. There is also a calculator for quick simple (+, -, x, /) stuff for those afraid of using a ten-key pad.

My favorite part is the phone directory. Enter in phone, business phone and fax for anyone. I select the group FGHI, push the record button and say "Robert" and then Irizarry's numbers. Then all I need to do is say "Robert" and it fetches his number. They should install this option in a cellular phone so you don't have to dial the numbers.

There are two versions, one with 512K and the other with 1024K, slightly more expensive. It can hold up to 8 minutes of messages - hundreds. The battery lasts two days of normal use, then starts to warn you that you only got a day left. It comes with a nice recharging stand you set it on overnight, which I put next to my change/keys dish. They say the batteries should last about two years under normal use. There is a backup battery to keep the info in RAM while you change batteries.

Now the bad news. Besides getting strange looks for yelling "NO" at my fist, there are other drawbacks. You have to train the thing at the beginning to recognize the 25 words it uses to input data. Entering in the phone numbers took me almost an hour, and there were a lot of misunderstandings, so I had to retrain four or five words. The worst thing is that you can't use it effectively in a noisy place like a train station or airport. It loses a lot if its recognition capability, and getting info out of it by pressing the buttons is tedious.

The Sharper Image (that distributor for Yuppies) sells the Voice organizer for $225 plus shipping. They also charge taxes because they have retail outlets in most states (there is an outlet here in Japan, too, so they won't ship directly here).

Think twice about this little toy, which is helpful, but hard to learn how to use, even if you are a Totally Obscene Techno-phile (TOT). One nice thing is that I can set it to tell me in the morning to "TAKE ME" so I don't leave it at home.

© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.

Algorithmica Japonica

January, 1996

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor

Tokyo PC Users Group, Post Office Box 103, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN