Moving Toward Speech Recognition and Voice Interfaces

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Get ready to hear a lot about speech and voice recognition. As applications multiply and the goings-on on the typical mobile device grows more complex, the most direct, and in many cases safest, way to interact with a device is to tell it what to do. Speech recognition also has a host of uses for desktop applications.


Mobile voice application vendor Vlingo today released the top 10 mobile voice searches of the year. The top three and the sixth were social networking sites (YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter) which, the company says, shows that people engage in this activity even while on the go. The other top searches were task-oriented (movie times, weather, etc.). The company says mobile searches tend to be aimed at specific destinations, while traditional searches more often identify specific topics.


Voice recognition is user-friendly and therefore the basis for very attractive user interfaces and other tasks. It is, however, a difficult technical nut to crack. The leading company in voice recognition, Nuance Communications, had quite a year -- and one that could presage an active 2010. It was capped by today's announcement that it has acquired SpinVox for cash and stock totaling $102.5 million. SpinVox provides voice-to-text software to carriers.

This is the third significant deal this year for Nuance. In July, it purchased Jott and in April it acquired Zi. Jott Assistant voice-enables posting to the Web, setting reminders, creating notes and other tasks. Software developed by Zi provides mobile search and innovative approaches to text input.

Nuance also is getting into the iPhone app game. David Pogue at The New York Times discusses Dragon Dictation from Nuance. His view generally is positive, and he gets a bit sarcastic when addressing privacy worries voiced by some. He clearly doesn't share their concerns.


Voice recognition is touted as a safety feature by automobile companies. Look for the general category of using voice to activate applications and to alleviate navigation complexity to gain momentum.