Many people believe that with the release of iOS 5 voice recognition maybe integrated into the iPhone. That we will finally see the results of the Siri purchase. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but it will be hard to do better the Dragon Go by Nuance. In fact Nuance recently updated their Dragon Go application for the iPhone to make even more useful. The Dragon Go application allows you to do search and initiate applications with your voice on you iPhone. You can do basic search by saying a single word like coffee, or phrases like “find me the nearest coffee shop”. Safari will open up and show you where the nearest coffee shops are on Google Maps or show you information about coffee on Wikipedia. Say “photos of coffee” and images of coffee will show up. Nuance has created one of the best voice recognition software there is, It has been doing simple search for awhile and is good at it.
The update they released today Sept 29, integrates other applications on iPhone into the search results. For example if I say Lady Gaga, the icons for Pandora, Spotify and Last.FM pull up. If I say “play Born this Way on Spotify” Spotify initiates and Born this Way starts to play. If you say a name of a movie one of the options you are given is Netflix, click on it and the movie will start up. You do have to be signed into Netflix for this to work. When it works, the updated version of Dragon Go is amazing. When it doesn’t work it can be very frustrating. You do have to train it to make it work well and that takes some time and practice. It does offer some tips and tricks under it’s help menu. In order for it to work with an application that application has to be integrated with Dragon Go. These apps include iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, Last FM, Netflix and Yelp. You also have to have the applications installed. Voice recognition software still has a ways to go, before it becomes mainstream but it is definitely getting better. Looking forward to how it works under iOS 5.
I have had Dragon Dictation on my Iphone for about a week now and have started to use it more and more. Dragon Dictation is made by Nuance Communication which also created Dragon Naturally Speaking, Jott Assistant, Jott for Salesforce and MacSpeech among other products. Nuance Communication is actually fairly new to the Apple market, they started as a PC product with Dragon Naturally Speaking. They launched Dragon Dictation and Dragon Search shortly after the Iphone came out. In February 2010 they purchased MacSpeech. I downloaded Dragon Dictation for the Iphone, because I was looking for a way to put text into the Iphone without having to use the keyboard.
Dragon Dictation fits my need very well. The first time you open the application up, it will ask you for permission to scan your address book for names. If you give it permission it will remember the names only, no addresses or phone number. If you change your mind later, you can go in settings and revoke the permission. While in the settings menu, you can also decide if you want to have Dragon Dictate automatically recognize the end of sentences which is how it is by default. If you do it manually you have to say period at the end of each sentence, which does take some getting use too. Dragon Dictation also recognizes other common punctuation, such as commas, question marks, and the at sign just to name a few. It also recognizes commands such as new paragraph and new line. It works best in a quiet room or by using headphones with a microphone. You can do it by using the Iphone internal microphone, but the results are not as good. You want to speak clearly and in your normal voice, it will learn from you overtime. I found it works best when you speak in short bites. Then stop let it translate and then dictate some more. It does not like non dictionary words, such as Boxee, which became Boxy. I did notice that the first time I used the word Mac, it interpreted it as Max, but after I corrected it the next time I said the word it interpreted it correctly. If you get an error, there are a couple of ways to correct it. The first is too highlight the word that is wrong and in a drop down menu it will give some possible substitutions. The second is to use the keyboard that comes with the program and correct it that way. Finally you can highlight the word or phrase and record right over it with the correction.
Once you have done the dictation, you have the option of sending it directly to Twitter or Facebook from with in the application. It does have the option of emailing or texting the information, however you have to enter the email or text address in manually. Finally you can copy what your results and paste them into any other Iphone application you want. It would be nice if this application was integrated right within the Iphone , so that you could use the capability within any application. Until that becomes available, this maybe the next best thing. Dragon Dictation is free and is available for both the Iphone and the Ipad.
This last week has been a pretty good one for me, for I got to review more than just a computer, printer or network. I got to review a car. Well, mostly the computer in the car, but still a very tricked out Ford Taurus SHO. A $37,000 vehicle with the Microsoft SYNC system inside.
Ford delivered the Taurus last week to my home. Blue-Grey in color, it didn’t look like the Taurus of years past. I used to drive one for work from time-to-time. That is when the car pool had one available.
However, this one was fully loaded. It had everything from the aluminum wheels to the SHO branded floor mats. It really made me feel like I was on top of my game when driving it. Not that I don’t like the current car I have – But when the time comes, I wouldn’t mind swapping for that one. As long as I can put a full drum set into it.
So let’s take a look at the car, the geeky stuff and other items inside:
We’ll start out with the car itself. This is the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO with 3.5 Liter EcoBoost V6 engine. EcoBoost Technology combines turbocharging and direct injection. It basically works like a V8, but with fewer emissions. The 365 horsepower engine can get 17 city/25 highway using All-Wheel Drive (AWD).
The wheel stock was 19″ premium painted luster nickel-aluminum. The SHO uses the intelligent Access technology with Push-Button Start. All you need is the FAB close by and you will not only be able to get in your car, but also start it without taking anything out of your pocket.
The Geeky Stuff:
Inside the car was where I was focused on. It contained the Microsoft SYNC system – A navigation software package, personal media player and full Satellite / AM /FM radio. The voice recognition was from Nuance – makers of the Dragon Naturally Speaking software. Connection was through audio jack, USB or Blutooth.
The voice navigation system was fairly straightforward to understand. If you have used a Tom-Tom or Garmin system, then the SYNC navigation will be second-hand. I entered in a couple destinations and the voice guided me to where I needed to go. There were a couple times it was unsure, so it said “Incomplete data, proceed with caution”. That way, I didn’t trust the system to the point where I would drive it off a cliff.
The voice navigation was also very competent on what it was saying. “Turn left onto Ambercrombe – Turn right onto McKenna..” and so forth. I think there was only one time I noticed the voice sound digital in my travels.
You can put in new destinations, or pre-program common ones. Just in case you forget where the store is, or if this is a company car – you can pre-program the destinations so new drivers can find the route without asking for directions.
The Climate Control:
What can I say about this? April is a Hot – then Cold kinda month. One minute you have all the windows rolled down, then the next the heat is blasted at 90 degrees. To be able to have all that at your fingertips is pretty important. I do have to say, though – The actual button configuration toward the bottom was more confusing than on the SYNC system. Especially when I wanted to turn the blower up and down.
The Sound System:
This is by far the best sound experience I have had in a car. The 12 speakers by Sony pushing out 390 Watts brought clarity to anything I played. Podcasts and music was both enjoyable to listen to, and easy. With the Bluetooth built in, I didn’t need to connect my iPhone to a cable – although I had an option through the USB port. The 10 GB of Hard Drive storage could allow me to put my CD’s into memory.
I was a little flustered that it wouldn’t let me upload MP3 CD’s into the car. I could play the MP3 CD through the system, though. Once I had the jukebox running, I could go through the songs as easily as if they were on my computer.
Since the system has Hands-Free options, I was able to answer phone calls with my cell in the pocket. It stored all my contact info so I could just push the button and go. The Stereo would duck under the phone voice, the backup sensors or the Navigation voice if needed. It made for a comforting experience where I didn’t have to juggle for phones or cables.
I was playing with the interior lighting all week. There were 2 buttons on the dash – One that dimmed a series of LED lights inside the car (by the door handles, in the compartments) and another that changed the color of the LED lights. I could choose the light based on my mood, but I mostly stuck with my favorite color: Green.
What is missing?
When we talked with Ford at CES, I thought there was going to be a special uplink option for music and podcasts. I was expecting to let the car talk with a wireless system to download media. That wasn’t the case. Sure, I could have used a Bluetooth connection from the house, but it would have been nice to be able to connect to the media server and get the music and podcasts that way. This was the only thing I wished it would have.
The car specs said I had a Rear View Camera. Either I missed it or this model didn’t have one. If it did, then I am surprised it wasn’t an intuitive system.
I enjoyed the ride for the week. I got to take a couple longer trips and felt comfortable the whole time. I had a few friends ride along and they really enjoyed the handling. The only thing they mentioned on the car was the design of the dashboard felt a little enclosing. It was an akward looking dashboard, but there was one big Sony speaker in the middle.
I was really happy to drive this car around for the week. I would like to thank Ford for their generosity in letting me review the system. The SYNC system is absolutely a fabulous idea and with some extras can be a very useful and very fun addition to your drive.