When the PC first came out back in the early 80s they had very primitive sound capabilities. They could beep and click and nothing else. One very small company started shipping a sound card (called SoundBlaster) that you could plug into one of your free slots on our PC. There wasn't much you could do with it at first, but then slowly, some games started to take advantage of the card. The gaming experience with 'high' quality sound was much improved, and soon the gamers started to buy the card. A few years later, the sound card had trickled down from the gamer's PC to the standard office PC. Now every PC now has high quality sound, thanks to the gamers.

A dozen years ago, when the gamers were playing Doom, a small company called 3dfx introduced a hardware accelerator for 3d graphics. As with sound there was not much that you could do with such a beast but play games like Quake. Again, the gaming experience with a 3D accelerator was much improved, the gamers bought them in droves. Now, every PC comes with a 3D accelerator. We are starting to see 3D graphics move out of the gaming world and onto the desktop. Witness Looking Glass, a 3D desktop (written in Java no less).

Now, we are starting to see the gamers toy with speech technology. One of the latest 3D shooters, Unreal Tournament 2004 uses speech recognition technology to allow the player to control their 'bot team mates. It relies on the Microsoft speech sdk (a free download).

Time will tell whether the gamers will find that speech enhances the gaming experience enough so that it becomes ubiquitous, but if it does, it may be the push that speech needs to get it accepted into the wider world of the desktop. Follow the gamers.


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