Check out the cool alarm clock I received for review on my geek dad blog. It’s the ivee Flex clock radio and it features a voice control interface. Bottom line: the ivee Flex is a nice clock radio that lets you use your voice to do tasks like setting the time and alarm, turning on the FM radio, checking the indoor temperature, and 40 other tasks. It’s not perfect, but ivee works fairly well. The ivee Flex is available now for $69.99 at Brookstone, Hammacher Schlemmer, Sharper Image, and helloivee.com. BTW, if you’re going to be at CES next week, you can check out the ivee in booth #25415.
The ivee Flex features a 5″ LED display. It can announce the time, date, temperature, and responds to voice-activated commands. You can also do things the old fashion way by using the buttons on the unit. But that would defeat the purpose of a cool gadget like this. The selling point of the ivee Flex is the voice control interface.
It was pretty neat and easy to set the time with my voice. Setting the time by voice is much more convenient than using buttons (especially if you mess up and have to go through the 24-hour cycle multiple times). It’s a shame ivee’s date couldn’t be set by voice only, instead of a combination of voice and buttons. Hopefully the next firmware upgrade will include the ability to set the date without the use of buttons. BTW, there’s a USB port for upgrading the unit’s firmware.
To use voice commands, you have to say “hello ivee” (pronounced “ivy”) before giving a command. The ivee Flex supports 43 voice commands (note: a couple of the commands were not available in my review unit). Some of ivee’s voice commands include: time, date, temperature, alarms status (the unit has two alarms), setting the clock and alarms, setting alarm sound (six to choose from), snooze, turning on the radio, setting the six FM presets, playing one of six sleep sounds, using the timer, and turning the nightlight on/off (the light is at the bottom of the unit).
The voice commands worked fairly well on the ivee system. However, a few times I had to repeat the command before ivee responded — especially when there were other people talking in the room or when I was more than a couple feet away from the unit. Keep in mind the ivee alarm clock does not need to be trained to your voice. The system is speaker independent and uses a Natural Language Processor (NLP), which can process 72 million instructions per second (MIPS). ivee’s NLP was developed using the sounds of thousands of different voices from all over North America.
The ivee system processes voice commands by first converting the analog audio signal into a digital signal. Then it analyzes the digital signal by looking for phonemes, which are sounds that makes up a word. For example, alarm would have the phonemes of uh, ll, ah, r, and m. Based on the phonemes, ivee determines the words that were spoken and responds accordingly.
Overall, I was very pleased with the ivee Flex voice control alarm clock radio. However, there were a few issues I found a little disappointing. First, the USB power cable was just a little too short for my need. I think the included cable is about 3′, but I needed a longer one to reach the power outlet. Second thing I wasn’t too happy with is the unit’s speaker. There are three volume level settings, and I can hear ivee and its radio just fine. However, I can also hear some static noise occasionally. It’s not a big problem, but with a price tag of $70, I think the speaker should be a little better. Finally, you can’t turn off the radio by voice command. When the radio is on, ivee is essentially in sleep mode. I would be nice if the ivee engineers could figure a way to turn off the radio by voice.
BTW, there’s also the less expensive ivee Digit ($49.99), which I didn’t test. It features a 3″ LCD display and supports over 30 voice-activated commands.
[Manual update: the instructions booklet mentioned tapping on the LED to do something. They actually meant pressing down on the LED display firmly.]