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Vangard Voice Systems

Founded: December 2001

Location: Rancho Santa Magarita, California, US.

What it offers: "Star Trek." You are Captain James T. Kirk, or Jean-Luc Picard, of the starship "Enterprise." "Computer: calculate time remaining until detonation of unknown object." Soft whirring. Then the disembodied gender-unspecific voice: "Nine hours 23 minutes 36 seconds."

Vangard's AccuSpeech, built around the Nuance Communications speech-recognition engine, converts voice input into the underlying data sets that the form and back-end data application understand. The development tool kit is a kind of "Microsoft Visual Studio for speech," with tools to create grammar for specific applications, to select whether you want the application to talk back to you, and so on, all on a field-by-field basis. You recompile the application, incorporating the Nuance speech-recognition engine, and your application is ready to talk with you.

It can ask you "Did you say such-and-such?" It even lets you use voice as a 'metatool,' for example, saying "Normal" to have the software automatically fill in a extensive set of normal or standard fields on a form, such as date, time, your name and bits of customer information from one or more files.

The software now supports Microsoft .Net and the .Net Compact Framework. It works now as an integrated part of the Visual Studio development environment.

Why it's worth watching: Think of the impact of hands-free data input: a voice interface reduces or even eliminates the need to work with buttons and keys to input lots of data, a big productivity gain for mobile workers in inventory, logistics, healthcare, public safety, government and defense.

How it got its start: The founders previously had worked with voice-enabled education applications. They decided it was feasible to create a software tool to easily embed voice input into mobile applications, allowing users to use speech for inputting data, filling in a form or accessing a database.

How company got its name: The idea is that the AccuSpeech software will be at the forefront of high-quality voice applications for mobile workers.

Management: Robert Bova, president and CEO, previously was CEO of Enfotec, a maker of Internet security devices, and he's got experience in growing companies: in 1997, he started the ISG divison of Rainbow Technologies, boosting it from US$0 to US$56 million in revenues in just over three years. CTO Bill Arthur, a Ph.D. in mathematics/computer science from University of Wisconsin, designed the AccuSpeech product. Previously he consulted in text-to-speech and voice recognition, and implemented the voice-activated VCom automobile navigation system from VCommand.

Funding: US$3 million in Series A funding, from Berkshire Ventures.

Who's using this product: Vangard sells its software development kit to distributors like Avnet and Ingram, and directly to systems integrators and VARs. Astegic, a systems integrator, used AccuSpeech to create M-Inspector, a mobile application for airport inspections, marketed to the FAA and to airport authorities.

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