Sunday, 15 February 2009

15. Speaking of searching - Nuance

It seems that mobile control by speech is about to become more mainstream as Nuance announces its new Voice Control system. They suggest that it is "a customizable modular framework that allows operators and handset OEMs to speech enable any feature, application, or network service on any mobile device they bring to market, including feature phones." This will move the voice control from "Dial John" to a full control as you would have on your fingertips. According to them, it will offer everything from standard web searches, to asking directions, playing music tracks, opening applications etc.

Clearly this is a way forward for the market, and for the dyslexic individual, and having seen one in action (all be it in a very quiet office environment) it is clearly a product with high potential and not just a gimmick.

But what I have not seen is what happens to the information accessed. It is ok if you are asking for the device to play some music, but if you want to find out information, the presentation of that information (e.g. reading Google results) can be as important as searching for it. Otherwise it remains a gimmick.

On a separate but related note, the new Android mobile phone platform has just acquired voice commands, though apparently currently restricted to its US market and the T-mobile G1 phone.

What I am not sure of is the availability of voices suitable for different markets, e.g. British English as opposed to American English. Unless the control is matched to the users voice, and provides a high level of reliability, the feature will remain unused, joining an ever increasing list of "nice but no thanks" technological innovations.

Android Voice

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