Tip: Bring Siri’s voice to your Mac with Samantha downloadable Voice for Lion

Since the introduction of Nuance speech technology in OS X Lion, which provides several new voice options in system preferences for the System Voice, many have compared the voice of Nuance-powered Siri on iPhone 4S to the improved text-to-speech included as free downloads within Lion. As noted by Reddit user Moosehadley, what you might not have realized is the downloadable “Samantha” voice for Lion is the same as Siri’s in the United States. Here is how to download it:

Open System Preferences> Speech> Text to Speech>System Voice> Customize> and select “Samantha” from the list. Apple will ask you to confirm the 469MB install.

Read more

For iOS users without Siri, there is Evi

We have seen Siri clones in the Android Market trying to pass themselves off as the real thing, and some Siri alternatives making their way to the Windows Phone Marketplace. Evi, on the other hand, might actually be the first true Siri competitor/alternative for Android and non-iPhone 4S iOS users.

Available on the App Store for 99 cents and free to Android users on the Android Market, Evi is the work of True Knowledge and its “core semantic search technology” better known as The True Knowledge Answer Engine. The 99-cent price tag on iOS is apparently to cover the cost of using Nuance voice recognition (the same voice recognition tech as Siri), which is not used in the Android version.

The app’s iTunes page explained Evi is capable of returning local data for the United Kingdom (along with the United States), which has been a complaint from U.K. Siri users since the iPhone 4S launch. According to TechCrunch, the app uses “an ontology of tens of thousands of classes into which” every possible user command can be recognized. True Knowledge said the app contains “almost a billion ‘facts’ (machine understandable bits of knowledge)” with the ability to infer trillions if necessary. It also reportedly uses all the expected sources, such as local results from Yelp, third-party websites, traditional web searches, and APIs.

While as of yet Evi is incapable of integrating with Calendar and Reminders like Siri, TechCrunch pointed out it sometimes provides more accurate and useful results for certain types of questions. Siri requests to search the web for an answer when users ask certain questions, such as “How do I make apple pie?” Evi, however, would provide a list of recipes with relevant links to that specific question. TechCrunch highlighted another example where Evi excels:

Read more

Nuance launches ‘Dragon TV’ voice-controlled platform ahead of rumored Siri-powered Apple HDTV

Nuance, the speech recognition company currently powering Apple’s Siri in the iPhone 4S, announced (via TechCrunch) it would be dropping a new voice-controlled TV platform known as “Dragon TV.” Apple is —of course— expected to include Siri-like voice capabilities in the rumored Apple branded HDTV, but Dragon TV has beat them to it with a platform that will enable users to find “content by speaking channel numbers, station names, show and movie names.”

Nuance Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: NUAN) today unveiled Dragon TV, a unique voice and natural language understanding platform for TV, device and set-top box OEMs and service operators. Dragon TV makes finding and accessing shows, movies and content in today’s digital living room easy and fun for consumers.

Nuance provided a few examples of what type of voice-control commands might work on the platform, such as “Go to PBS” or “Find comedies with Vince Vaughn,” but a user’s commands could include “virtually anything.” The company also announced the platform will include social and messaging features, such as email, Twitter, messaging, Skype, and Facebook. Those features will also be voice-controlled allowing a user to use voice-commands, such as “Send message to Julie: ‘Old School is on TBS again this weekend – super excited’”.

According to the press release, the Dragon TV platform is already available to television and device OEMs with support for “all major TV, set-top box, remote control and application platforms.” As for specific platforms, the press release mentions Linux, Android, and iOS. There is —of course— a possibility that the technology used in the Dragon TV platform will land in a version of Siri for an Apple TV device.

Senior Vice President and General Manager at Nuance Mobile Mike Thompson said this regarding the announcement:

Read more

Nuance acquires speech recognition competitor Vlingo, Apple’s speech engine choices dwindle

There are fewer options for speech recognition these days, and now there are even fewer with Nuance announcing they acquired Vlingo for an undisclosed figure. Following multiple lawsuits related to patent infringement, the two companies apparently came to what CEO of Vlingo Dave Grannan called  “a good outcome.” Grannan elaborated in a prepared statement (via AllThingsD):

Vlingo and Nuance have long shared a similar vision for the power and global proliferation of mobile voice and language understanding. As a result of our complementary research and development efforts, our companies are stronger together than alone. Our combined resources afford us the opportunity to better compete, and offer a powerful proposition to customers, partners and developers.

Vlingo is notably used in various voice-controlled Android apps, and it is viewed as competitors to Apple’s Siri built into the iPhone 4S. However, Siri, also used it prior to it being used by Apple, before switching to Nuance…

In an interview with 9to5Mac, Siri co-founder Norman Winarsky said Vlingo was originally used as the speech recognition component of Siri before switching to Nuance. He noted: “Theoretically, if a better speech recognition comes along (or Apple buys one), they could likely replace Nuance without too much trouble. ” The full quote is below.

9to5Mac: How important is Nuance speech recognition to the Siri technology? Read more

It must be the accent

Microsoft’s Craig Mundie shoved his foot knee deep in his mouth this week when he said that Siri was nothing special, and Microsoft’s own voice capabilities have been around for over a year.  The reason for Siri’s success?  Marketing, of course.

People are infatuated with Apple announcing it. It’s good marketing, but at least as the technological capability you could argue that Microsoft has had a similar capability in Windows Phones for more than a year, since Windows Phone 7 was introduced.

To be fair, Siri isn’t even about the Voice Recognition, it is what the iPhone does with it.  The voice recognition is outsourced to Nuance’s engine. The Microsoft Phone barely made it to the point where you could make sense out of what its engine produced.

If you were Microsoft, would you rather Mundie be so out of touch with the technology he is talking about that he can’t tell the difference, or that he’s just flat out shamelessly lying?

Read more

Nuance speech recognition comes to Mac App Store with Dragon Express

Nuance just dropped a new Dragon dictation product in the Mac App Store called Dragon Express ($49 introductory price), a scaled-back, less expensive version of their Dragon Dictate software. This new version will reside in Lion’s menubar, allowing you to activate the dictate window with a keyboard shortcut or mouse click, and begin converting your speech to text immediately. From there you’ll be able to quickly email it, run a web search with the text, copy it, or share to the usual social networking suspects.

“Dragon Express is a great app for those who are new to speech recognition or who are looking for an easy-to-use dictation tool that allows them to use their voice instead of typing,” said Peter Mahoney, senior vice president and general manager, Dragon, Nuance. “For those looking for a more full-featured speech recognition program, we recommend Dragon Dictate, which provides the full capabilities of advanced speech recognition technology.”

Nuance speech recognition technology is currently baked into Apple’s Siri voice-controlled assistant, although Siri co-founder Norman Winarsky told 9to5Mac in a recent interview it could likely be replaced if “better speech recognition comes along”. If you’re wondering how Dragon Express stacks up against their full-fledged dictate software, Nuance posted the chart below comparing the feature sets of the two apps:

 (via MacStories) comparing features of Express and Dictate

Full press release after the break (via MarketWatch).
Read more