Back in the day, I had an Apple Newton PDA which was an early, stylus-based (and quite large, by today’s standards) handheld computer. It was pretty cool but one of the love/hate attributes was its handwriting recognition. You’d write clearly (or so you thought) but the Newton would mangle the words, creating a nonsense sentence. This became a joke that was featured in the Doonesbury comic strip and other pop culture outlets. A classic Newton joke:
Q: How many Newtons does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
I’ve been using Google Voice for a while now, which is a great, free service that lets you use one, central phone number that can be dynamically routed to whatever other number you like. One of the most interesting features is that it will allow you to “screen” incoming calls and choose whether to accept them, send them to voice mail, or send them to voice mail while you listen in to what they are saying (you can press a key to take the call if what they say is interesting).
Additionally, you can make long distance calls through Google Voice for “free” (you make a call via Google’s site and it “patches you in” so you don’t incur long distance charges).
One other feature that holds great promise is one in which Google Voice will transcribe your voice mails to text and email them to you. This makes it easier to About this feature, I say “holds great promise” because it doesn’t quite have the transcription accuracy that makes this a killer app. For example, consider this Newton-esque transcription of one of my voice mails:
Pretty hard to tell what this means. To be fair, the bold text is the part of the transcription they had high confidence in, while the gray text is lower-confidence transcription (and they got the phone number right).
I’m hoping this feature improves – this is one promise I’d love to see them fulfill! I’d love to be able to route all of my voice mail into my inbox for processing along with my emails.