With just a little training (them) and patience (you), the latest machines will learn to obey your every spoken command
Computers and technology which can understand and be controlled by the human voice have long been a staple of science fiction. Their application in the real world has been rather more challenging, as the complexities of language, speech and dialect are not easily reduced to binary code. Nonetheless, voice recognition/activation is increasingly becoming a feature of technology, though it is unlikely we will have a Hal by 2001.

Thomson NaviVox system As part of its plan for the "creation of dialogue with household equipment", Thomson has developed voice control for its top-of-the-range television and video. The NaviVox remote control is capable of understanding, interpreting and executing commands. Press the "Vox" button and speak to change channel, picture size and set the video to record; confirmation of commands appears on the screen. Available next year. For further information visit www.thomson- europe.com

Ericsson T18 mobile phone Voice activation on mobiles is a little rudimentary but more sophisticated versions will be on offer soon. The T18 offers voice dialling - say the name of the person you want to speak to (from a memory of 10) and it dials for you. Calls can also be accepted with a voice command. pounds 99 with connection. Also check out Orange's excellent Wildfire system. For further T18 information call 0990 237237.

Bosch Voice Control car phone Bosch Voice Control allows drivers to listen and talk on the carphone without touching any equipment. It dials numbers for you and is even switched on by a voice command. Volume control is adjusted automatically to cope with changing noise conditions. Available next year (about pounds 230). For further information call 01895 834466 or visit www.bosch.de/telecom-eg

Pioneer VX-50 Voice Controller Designed to increase car safety and to keep driver's hands on the wheel and not fiddling with the stereo. Used in conjunction with Pioneer in-car tuners and CD changers, the voice controller can access up to 99 CD titles and four radio stations (you have to register the titles of all your discs beforehand). Pioneer is also developing a voice-activated car-navigation system - you tell it where to go and it works out the best route for you. VX-50 Voice Controller pounds 200. For stockists and further information call 01753 789789.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Computer speech-recognition systems are constantly improving. You still have to train the software to understand your voice, but this now takes minutes rather than hours. The new Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice-recognition software has a vocabulary of 250,000 words and will learn new ones. Use it with the digital voice recorder to record your thoughts (up to 40 minutes' worth at one time) and then the computer transcribes them, even taking account of commands to format and edit text (note, you'll need a high-spec PC for this). Dragon NaturallySpeaking Mobile pounds 199. For further information call Dragon on 01628 894150 or visit www.dragonsys.com