Vlingo provides voice-control for BlackBerry devices, , and is currently beta-testing a version for smartphones (N95, N95 8GB, E51 and E71). I have been using free versions of Vlingo on both a BlackBerry and an iPhone, and have been very impressed. When Vlingo released version 3.0 for the BlackBerry, I immediately wanted to put the update through it’s paces.
Vlingo’s tagline is “Why tap when you can talk.” While I don’t want to hear people yelling into their phones in any public setting, I have to admit that Vlingo certainly shines in hands-free use in the car. Well, almost hands free use — you still have to use one of the side convenience keys on your BlackBerry to trigger Vlingo. Then you can speak various commands — from making a call, sending an email or text, to searching the web or even updating your Facebook and Twitter statuses. The free version of Vlingo provides a great deal of functionality, but users could only send a text message or email to contacts who also had Vlingo installed.
The updated application touts improvements, including:
* More Hands Free Support
* Being up to 30% faster
* Easier, faster Web Searching (Now when you do a web search, you get results right away instead of having to click one extra button)
* Support for most Bluetooth devices
* Support for new devices like the Storm, Bold, Curve 2 and the Pearl Flip
* The ability to speak commands like “Send” and “Call”
* Better handling of BES so that more users on a corporate network can use Vlingo
The feature matrix below, illustrates exactly what new features you get with Vlingo 3.0 Plus.
The big question for BlackBerry users is whether these extra features are worth the one-time $17.99 fee.
Once you install Vlingo, the setup will walk you through configuring the software for your device and provide examples of how you can use the voice-control software.
You can easily add your Twitter account information to use Vlingo for voice-status updates, if you are so inclined. The updated version now also supports Bluetooth headsets (a gripe for many of the first-version Vlingo users).
The application was easily able to send a text and email to my contacts using simple voice commands — just speak clearly (no mumbling), and be specific with the names.
Using Vlingo: Examples
An example of how to send an email using Vlingo:
- Say “Email Jason”
- “Subject – I am running late.”
- “Message: stuck in traffic, but I should be there by 7:30pm.”
Conduct a Web Search:
- “Search Starbucks”
- “Google Starbucks”
(You can add additional criteria like zip code to narrow down results)
- “Call John Smith”
By breaking it up in this manner, you can easily send emails or text messages. You can similarly create tasks, memos, calendar appointments, etc. through voice commands.
Vlingo uses Hierarchical Language Models, or HLMs, for voice recognition and to analyze groupings and frequency of words/phrases used. In this respect, Vlingo adapts — or learns — with use, so the more you use the software, the more accurate it gets in deciphering what you say.
Vlingo is definitely a useful application and all-round utility for anyone on-the-go. While I still hope I don’t see people randomly speaking into their mobile devices on the street, at a restaurant, or in the office, I can certainly appreciate how beneficial Vlingo and other voice-recognition applications have become. The more I used Vlingo, the more I liked it.
While $17.99 is a high price for a mobile application, anyone that even considers sending a text or making a phone call behind the wheel should use Vlingo. Try the free version, or download the Vlingo Plus trial. Once you use the application, the price tag will likely pale in comparison to the benefit it provides. You can’t make everyone pull over to text — but Vlingo does, at least, keep you hands-free (you only press a side convenience key to start the app).
MSRP: $17.99 (the free version is also available for BlackBerry devices and iPhones, but lacks the ability to send messages to contacts who do not also use Vlingo).
What I Like: Accurate voice-to-text transcription to SMS and email during use. The application improves with use, as it “learns” frequently used words phrases from the user.
What Needs Improvement: High price tag for the number of added features. Not all applications are supported through Vlingo’s voice-commands (except for BlackBerry Messenger, all native BlackBerry applications are well-integrated — but Vlingo will not work with most 3rd party apps). Vlingo will not do text-to-speech, so you cannot use it to read email messages sent to you.
Note: Vlingo 3.0 Plus is currently only available for BlackBerry devices. iPhone and the current Symbian-Beta application for Nokia smartphones should have an upgraded “Plus” version later in the year (no word on the price for those two platforms).