A while we were at CES last week I had a chance to meet with a number of the people who I email and speak with regularly from Nuance. Nuance is the leading company developing voice to text technology; they’re the company that has given us of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Dragon Dictation for iOS devices and Dragon for Mac (the application I’m using to write this post).
There were a few bits of important news that came out from Nuance over the course of the week.
Nuance T9 Trace + Android = Happy Samsung Galaxy Tab User
The first day we arrived in Las Vegas I was pinged with the news release from Nuance. They were announcing their new T9 Trace for Android devices. I had a chance to see this application in action about a month and half ago on a loaner device Nuance sent me. At the time I was impressed but, since I wasn’t an Android user, it didn’t strike home to me all that much. Now that I was using the Samsung Galaxy Tab however, this was big news to me.
Nuance’s keyboard application costs $4.99, but for that relatively insignificant amount of money you get a traditional keyboard, a keyboard that does “continuous touch” (think Swype but much better), handwriting recognition, and – the biggie for my money – access to Dragon’s voice recognition technology. Yes, with this new keyboard I no longer need to rely on Google or Vlingo for voice recognition. And unlike those two approaches, the voice recognition offered by Nuance through this application is phenomenal. From the moment it was released I changed my input keyboard to Nuance’s offering and I haven’t looked back. Within a few hours I was comfortable using their continuous typing method thanks to the excellent AutoCorrect features that they have developed over these many years.
Here’s what they have to say about it…
As the latest addition to the T9® product portfolio, T9 Trace™ is a revolutionary continuous touch text input application for touchscreen devices. New T9 Trace eliminates the need to “hunt and peck” keys on a touchscreen panel by allowing users to simply “trace” letters to enter text. With T9 Trace, users can quickly and easily glide their finger or stylus from one letter to the next on a Qwerty or 12-key touchscreen keypad. And, because T9 Trace is integrated with XT9®, it leverages XT9’s patented predictive text technology to provide error correction and word prediction capabilities that enable faster input and superior word completion accuracy.
T9 Trace allows users to seamlessly switch back and forth between tracing and tapping at any time, giving users greater flexibility and control over the way they input text on their device. T9 Trace supports over 70 languages, and it may be integrated on any device platform.
Seamless Multimodal Entry — Allows users to effortlessly switch between tracing and tapping when entering text
Multimodal Support — Supports QWERTY and 12-key touchscreen layouts
Sloppy-Type™ Correction — Corrects regional error entry on Qwerty keypads
Spell Correction — Corrects common misspelling, over and under-typing errors.
Next Word Prediction — Predicts entire phrases based on phrases typed most often
Word Order Preferencing — Adjusts word order based on user preference and prior usage
Enhanced Word Completion — Allows users to more easily type in unique words, including chat phrases, email addresses and URLs
User Added Words — Easily store and use favorite slang abbreviations and more
XT9® Backup — Back up personalized XT9® word databases for easy device transfer
Smart Punctuation — Automatic punctuation in trace and tap modes
Bilingual Input — Simultaneously text in two languages
Extensive Language Support — Over 70 languages supported
The next night I had the opportunity to see some of the Nuance’s Reps on the floor at one of the press events we attended. They gave me access to one of Ford’s upcoming vehicles that has Nuance voice-recognition technology built in. I was incredibly impressed. The vehicle I was in had four small screens positioned around the wheel and the large 7 inch touchscreen in the main console. All of that worked together seamlessly to allow you to access major functions in the car–everything from the temperature to the music you wanted to listen to–without ever having to take your eyes off the road. Even in the crowded hall the voice recognition was perfect.
Finally, the next morning, I had a chance to sit down with them for about an hour. They gave me some insight into the direction they are moving. They’ve been working closely with Ford for well over a year to bring voice integration into the cars produced by Ford that is as seamless as the demonstration I’d seen the night before. They pointed out that the integration with iTunes is now more robust, and that they are working to increase the use of natural language so that individual driving doesn’t have to think about what he or she says but can simply say it in the manner that they would be most comfortable with. In all their goal is to make their voice recognition technology more robust and integrated with more aspects of what people need to do well in their car while also building relationships with other companies beyond Ford. For example, Toyota has jumped into this area with them in a significant way and it’s just beginning.
In addition there is a good deal being done that actually allows more seamlessness between your car and your handheld device and we will be seeing more of that in the months to come. I suspect that over the course of the next year we will see an increasing number of apps that are designed to be used in automobiles. These won’t be simple ports of the apps from handhelds since the needs of the end-user are different in one situation versus the other but rather they will use the same underlying approach and technique while giving large easy-to-read screens that help drivers avoid distraction.
There were two other points that emerge from our discussion.
The first came from a comment that Judie had made the second day we were in Las Vegas. We both received release about something else Nuance was doing and Judie commented, “Wow, these folks are everywhere!” She’s right, Nuance’s technology is in so many places, but you wouldn’t know it because it’s embedded beneath other technologies. I asked about this and they told me that increasingly their brand is being highlighted as the technology driving the voice to text process. The reason for this is simple, increasingly people are aware that Nuance is the best in the business. Highlighting Nuance as the standout technology driving their functionality is, as a result, advantageous to them.
Finally, having tried both Google and Vlingo on my Samsung Galaxy Tab and then being blown away by Nuance’s offering I asked them, “Why is Nuance’s voice-to-text recognition so much better than Google’s?” (Actually I believe my exact words were, “Why does using Google’s voice to text transcription feel like a Yugo compared to yours, which is a Maserati?”
Their answer? “It’s all we do.”
Yes, it’s all they do, and they do it incredibly well –so well in fact, that I haven’t lifted my hands off of the table at any point while writing this post.