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When driving down the highway or sitting in the traffic, are you tempted to peek at your messages on your BlackBerry smartphone? A little dangerous and not to mention against the law. However, with a new application available for the BlackBerry smartphones, you no longer have to peek at your cellphone, as all your messages can be read out aloud to you.

The SafeReader feature in the Vlingo app for BlackBerry smartphones will read incoming messages out loud – letting you keep your eyes on the road.

But Vlingo does more than just read emails and SMSs, this is a full-featured voice-command system for your BlackBerry smartphone.

The app’s concept is pretty simple: voice-based tools for your BlackBerry smartphone. The aforementioned SafeReader, for example, reads new messages out loud as they come in. Voice recognition lets you enter text faster than typing. And voice commands let you open other apps, send texts and emails, chat via BBM (BlackBerry Messenger), update Facebook and Twitter, and more.

How to get it

The Vlingo app for BlackBerry smartphones is available for download from BlackBerry App World. To download the latest version of BlackBerry App World direct to your BlackBerry smartphone to www.blackberry.com/appworld

How it works

To make Vlingo work you hold down the side key and speak your command. Release the side button when done. Vlingo listens to what you say, and then does what you ask.

Faster than typing

Vlingo claims that a study shows that people can complete tasks 2.5% faster by talking than by typing. After using the app for a few weeks we believe it – but only if voice recognition accuracy is high.

What about accuracy?

With voice recognition software always comes an inherent question: how accurately does it translate my voice into words or commands? Vlingo scores fairly well in this category, although it takes some time to fully adapt to your voice.

Unlike many other voice recognition programmes, Vlingo does not include a voice-training course to help build accuracy. It does, however, automatically adapt to your voice, cadence and accent. And it learns as you correct its mistakes.

For example, if you say: ‚Facebook status is out with friends‚ and Vlingo types, ‚Facebook status is out with Frieda.‚ When you correct the error Vlingo will automatically learn the difference and use that information to do better next time.

The Vlingo team tells us that the app also learns from what other users say to help improve accuracy for everyone. It even accounts for regional differences.

The bottom line:

We rate accuracy only fair in the beginning. Correcting mistakes took time, but we noticed rapid improvement as we used the app. After two weeks we now rate accuracy as excellent.

Five ways to use Vlingo

1. You are running late to pick up your teenage son from rugby practice. While walking to your car, just press the side key and tell Vlingo, ‚Text Joe I am running late. I will be in front of your school in 8 minutes.‚

2. Should you bring your umbrella? Grab your BlackBerry smartphone and say, ‚Weather in [your town].‚

3. Headed to work in the morning? Turn on SafeReader when getting into your car by simply hitting the side button and saying ‚SafeReader On.‚ Vlingo will read your email and text messages aloud so you can keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.

4. Need to settle a bet? Just ask Vlingo, ‚Search Google how many games have the Springboks won?‚

5. Social networking works great with Vlingo. Update your Facebook by saying, ‚Facebook update seeing the magnificent view overlooking Cape Town on Table Mountain. Beautiful day!‚

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