An MP3 player you can talk to...

Muttering nutters with headphones

A US firm specialising in metadata for music files is working with a voice recognition company to enable voice-controlled music devices for use where hand control is impractical.

Gracenote is working with voice recognition specialist ScanSoft and early products will be aimed at Japan.

Ross Blanchard, a Gracenote veep, said voice recognition would make devices easier to use: "For example, these applications will radically change the car entertainment experience, allowing drivers to enjoy their entire music collections without ever taking their eyes off the road."

Alan Schwartz, vice president of SpeechWorks, a division of ScanSoft, said speech is a "natural fit for today's consumer devices, particularly in mobile environments, and the increasing portability of large libraries of music and video files make speech a necessary interface for safety and convenience for entertainment devices."

Apart from allowing navigation around songs the technology will also allow you to ask for music by genre, ask for more information about a song or even hear similar tunes.

The firms hope to have products ready to market by the end of 2005. Gracenote works with new media firms such as RealNetworks and iTunes as well as consumer electronics brands like Clarion, Kenwood and Pioneer.

In June last year Apple did a deal with BMW linking its iPod music player to the car's existing stereo controls on the steering wheel. ®

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