Scientists at Siemens Corporate Research have developed a prototype system that enables one to access e-mail messages or World Wide Web pages using any touch-tone telephone, including a cellular phone. For those away from the office, or with no laptop readily available, the system promises to fill one of the last communications gaps. Called DICE (Delivering Information in a Cellular Environment), the system uses a computer algorithm to analyze e-mail and HTML documents, then play them back as audio. Siemens has three patents pending for the special algorithm that also analyzes the format and layout elements of a document to convey not only a document's text, but also its structure. In this way, even highly structured HTML documents can be converted to an audio format--without confusing the listener. To use DICE, one dials up a service provider, then, using the touch-tone keypad, accesses web pages from a list of selected bookmarks, or retrieves e-mail. For many tasks, Siemens says, it's sufficient to press a few keys and then simply listen. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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