QPointer HandsFree allows you to ‘touch’ any object on a computer screen by voice, similarly to the way a person uses a mouse.Until now, surfing the Internet, writing e-mail, and other computer usage has been limited to those who have been able to manipulate a mouse, the common computer tool that allows one to navigate a computer screen.

But an Israeli company has developed new technology that will allow anyone to operate a computer, even those who are not able to “point and click” because they suffer from paralysis, Parkinson’s disease or other physical limitations.

Israel-based Commodio, Inc. has developed the world’s first Voice Mouse. In doing so, Commodio, a small start-up based in Kfar Sava, has moved interaction with the computer from the hands to the mouth. Using their product, called QPointer HandsFree, the screen responds to the human voice in every way. Voice commands are responsible for every commands operation. No hand movements are necessary to navigate the Internet, write and send e-mail, create and edit documents, point directly at any object on a computer screen, emulate the mouse by performing drag-and-drop operations, and activating keyboard keys and shortcuts.

“QPointer HandsFree allows you to ‘touch’ any object on a computer screen by voice, similarly to the way a person uses a mouse,” Ramy Metzger, President and CEO of Commodio told Globes. “With QPointer HandsFree users can turn their computers and other display-based devices into voice-activated devices.”

The user points at a screen object by saying the name of the part of the screen they wish to use, such as words or toolbar buttons. “Hint” tags are then displayed next to all screen elements of that part of the screen. The user speaks the name of the tag of the requested screen object and the cursor jumps to the right place. Any mouse command can be emulated with the user saying that command (e.g., “double-click”).

“We realized that pointing and writing devices are inconvenient to use. We use them now because there’s nothing else. We’re just used to it,” says Commodio cofounder and CTO Dr. Leonid Brailovsky. “Even normal persons working for hours with a mouse get wrist pains at some point. At first, we considered developing a product that would eliminate using a mouse, but then we realized that our product also enables us to get rid of the keyboard, and we continued in that direction.”

QPointer HandsFree is based on Commodio’s proprietary technology that analyses screen content, combined with a speech recognition engine provided by Microsoft. Commodio’s technology is based on human screen content cognition insight and artificial intelligence.

“We didn’t develop the speech engine itself,” Brailovsky notes. “Microsoft, which did, is letting us use it for free for our developments in the field (Microsoft markets the engine through its Office XP software, B.G.).”

The system requires some adaptation, since it is designed for an average profile. Users present their profiles by dictating text. The system can store a number of profiles, according to the number of users.

Microsoft has chosen Commodio as its vendor of choice for voice operation. “We’re currently cooperating with Microsoft, and we may expand our cooperation in the future. For now, we’re marketing the product in the market for computer access products – Assistive Technologies. We’re the only ones so far providing access to all computer software through voice commands.”

“There are products that work require full integration with every single program, which significantly reduces the possibilities for supporting applications. Our product doesn’t need integration, because it’s based on what physically appears on the screen, regardless of what software is being operated. That give wide range of action, as you say what you see, without relying on complicated commands.”

According to Brailovsky, QPointer HandsFree’s potential market extends far beyond those that are unable to use a conventional computer operating system.

“I don’t have to educate an entire market to throw away their computer mice and keyboards, since I’m appealing to people who can’t use mice and keyboards, and therefore can adapt much more quickly. For example, we appeal to amputees, or those who suffering from palsy, and find it difficult to operate a mouse accurately. We also target early adopters, who like trying new things after all, it’s very sexy to surf the Internet without using your hands.”

Commodio, Inc was incorporated in the US in 2000 and currently employs 10 people. Its marketing and sales office is located in Houston and the R&D center is located in Kfar Sava.

The requirements for operating the Commodio system are quite modest: a Pentium 3500 megahertz computer, and a microphone supplied together with the system. The product is sold on the US market for $189.