Voice-activated computers are in use on the floors of trading houses and factory warehouses, care of Verbex Voice Systems. The Edison, N.J., company's system lets end-users dictate everything from buy-and-sell commands to factory inspection reports directly into computers, with customer Shearson Lehman Hutton citing speed and accuracy advantages. Developed by Exxon, the technology was spun out three years ago to the VC-backed start-up.

-- Leslie Brokaw