Voice-activated software has been around for quite some time now. So, to be genuinely excited about any of these, someone must have done something right.

However, the problem with these types of programs is that you have to talk in an almost robotic tone to make them actually do something. This could be frustrating even for an English instructor and even harder for us who don’t possess flawless communication skills.

How Does Voice Activation Work?

Voice recognition software aims to make our life easier by letting us “speak” our commands rather than typing them into a device or using our fingers to push buttons. Just imagine the possibility of surfing the Internet by simply voicing out your commands.

It takes a great phone to put this into practice. When it comes to voice recognition software, the quality of the sound captured determines the effectiveness of the software. Voice activation works by breaking down sound into chunks.

In written English, words are formed by combining 26 letters. In spoken English, on the other hand, words are formed by combining about 40 phonemes (sound units). Voice activation works by recognizing these phonemes and converting them into instructions. It also requires some well-designed algorithms to predict which exact word you’re saying in relation to the whole sentence or command.

Voice Actions for Android

Voice Actions for Android is a feature which allows owners of an Android smartphone equipped with Android 2.2 (or higher) to control their devices by simple voice commands. Google’s Voice Actions for Android is Android’s official face for voice recognition and activation technology, but there are similar apps readily available on the Android Market.

Voice Actions for Android may seem inferior compared to its iPhone counterpart, but with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich right around the corner, a more fine-tuned voice recognition app is not far behind.

  • send text to [contact] [message]
  • listen to [artist/song/album]
  • call [business]
  • call [contact]
  • send email to [contact] [message]
  • go to [website]
  • note to self [note]
  • navigate to [location/business name]
  • directions to [location/business name]
  • map of [location]

Siri Personal Assistant by Apple

Siri for the iPhone 4S is a technology that lets you perform numerous tasks on your iPhone by simply speaking out your commands. It offers an easy way of communicating with your smartphone by using technology that understands a wide degree of voice communication not limited to simple command phrases.  The system even has the capability of talking back.

In terms of functionality, I have to tip my hat to the guys at Apple. The software is quite capable and appears more versatile compared to similar apps for Android.

While Android has been good at delivering voice-activated commands, these unfortunately have been restricted to simple phrases. Apple’s Siri, on the other hand, allows for a more natural flow of commands. It is able to identify entire sentences and execute the command as such.  For instance:

  • Apple’s Siri — “Mail Lisa and Jason about the party and say I had a great time”
  • Android’s Voice Actions — “Send email to Lisa (message)”

Android owners were surprised by Apple’s “latest” Siri offering. Voice recognition software is certainly not new and apps for these have long been available on the Android Market. If the guys at Apple are seriously marketing this as an innovation–as something entirely new–then they’ve been beaten to the punch by Android app developers by more than a year.

There also seems to be some squabble among Apple owners over the application’s removal from the list of third party Apps at iTunes. It was available for free before iOS 5 was released at the recent “Let’s Talk iPhone” convention. Alas, Siri is now only available to owners of the iPhone 4S. That leaves them with the difficult choice of discarding their old iPhone units just to grab a hold of this technology.

“Sell First” Mentality

Apple has been doing this on their products for the last few years. Just take a look at how they’ve introduced their iTouch devices. The third-generation iTouch was basically the same as its fourth-generation sibling.  The only difference is that the latter was sporting a camera.

Apple could have introduced the camera even in its earlier iTouch devices but decided not to do so. This is exactly what’s happening with its Siri application. They’ve pulled it out from iTunes to offer it as an exclusive technology available for the iPhone 4S even though it ran perfectly on its earlier versions.

Parting Shots

Whatever floats your boat, you can be assured that voice-activated command functionality  on smartphones is not new–it’s been on Android for some time and it’s being highlighted on the iPhone 4S as a main attraction.  Also, the decision about which platform or implementation best suits your needs for voice-activated smartphones still rests heavily on your shoulders.

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