The mobile voice recognition capabilities of both Google and Apple create fantastic potential for interactive apps that users can talk to. In a recent Apple ad, a man and woman carry out daily tasks by talking to Siri, such as texting their spouse, inquiring about the weather and asking “How many cups are in 12 ounces?”
Android’s ability to translate languages is equally impressive, so much so that Google Translate for Android now has offline support for 50 languages. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some potential uses for voice technology in future applications.
Reach for the Top, available for the iPhone and iPad, is an early example of a trivia game that encompasses this trend towards voice activation and AI. Mimicking the Canadian game show of the same name, Reach players are asked questions by their mobile device and can directly speak the answer back into the mic. The app recognizes what was said and tells you whether you were correct or not. No more missing questions because of an accidental spelling error.
One of the biggest problems with mobile devices continues to be text input. No matter what type of add-on the market produces, there’s yet to be suitable replacement for the keyboard. With the popularity of voice transcription software growing in the personal computer space, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing it on our smaller screens.
The Evernote mobile app for Android is able to do this to some extent, though it only works for phones running Android 4.0, a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich. Enabling this Evernote feature is as easy as tapping the microphone icon within a note. You can either have the text appear as you speak, or dictate the audio by recording a full sentence at once before inputting the information into the app. One downside is that you must be online for this feature to work, as the app’s heavy lifting is done in the cloud.
For writers or lecturers with more on their minds, popular PC voice recognition software, Dragon, promises to bring their capabilities to iPhones and iPads. Not only will the Dragon mobile software turn your spoken words into a legible document, it will also adapt to a user’s vocal patterns to reduce mistakes. The app also syncs with your contact list to make it easier to reference friends and family when composing a memo.
Boston-based company, Nuance, is working on ways to make voice activation a fundamental part of your phone. Nuance’s “always on” feature that will allow users to open apps, search the web and listen to text messages and emails all without touching the device. The company already owns the Dragon range of speech recognition software and is the driving force behind Siri, as well as Ford’s SYNC in-car communication and entertainment system.
If anyone has the skill to bring voice recognition to the mainstream, it’s them. “I should just be able to talk to [my phone] without touching it,” says Vlad Sejnoha, chief technology officer at Nuance Communication. “It will constantly be listening for trigger words, and will just do it — pop up a calendar, or ready a text message, or a browser that’s navigated to where you want to go.”
Nuance is giving developers a helping hand in creating new apps by releasing a new software development kit, attempting to extend their reach through a uniform voice recognition platform that will be found in Android and Apple apps all over the market.
It’s important to remember that mobile voice recognition is still in its infancy. This might be something that you’ve already experienced while talking to Siri or trying to compose a voice text. As with most emerging technologies, these things can take time. Although we can’t communicate with our devices like a Starfleet commander just yet, the potential for mobile apps to listen and understand us is far less than a lightyear away.