Meet Android’s Own Personal Assistant: Jeannie

When Apple announced their iPhone 4S, I (like a lot of people) was underwhelmed. I have always felt that the fact they update every year (or less) is overkill for Apple, as they only have major changes every two years.

There is one feature I am very interested in though, and that is Siri. If it works as well as the commercials make it seem, it’s truly impressive. So I, like any good Android owner, took to the Android Market to see if there were any apps out there similar to Siri. A few weeks ago Sam Cater took a look at Iris, one Siri clone. I figured I’d take a look at Jeannie.

Jeannie, formerly Voice Actions, actually came out well before the Siri hoopla started, and to great reviews. Today we’ll take a look at how it works and how well it works.

Using Jeannie

Using Jeannie is pretty straight forward- open the app and start speaking to it (to her?). There’s no introduction or tutorial, so I just went ahead and asked it a few simple questions – things like, “What time is it?” “What’s the weather like?” and so on. The app had a pretty easy time answering these and, much like with Siri, the answers were read out loud.

There is a feature list in settings. You can also ask Jeannie, “What can I do?” to get more info.

Jeannie

If you go to the app’s page on the Android Market, you’ll see a more complete list of commands. A few examples they offer are:

  • call James at home
  • text Maria that I love her
  • news about Barack Obama
  • set alarm clock: wake up Monday at 8am

You can also ask to search on Amazon, Ebay, and more, as well as to enable certain phone functions like bluetooth and wifi, translate your speech to a different language, and install programs.

If you plan on using Jeannie a lot, I suggest you make it your default voice command app. Generally, you can go to Applications->Voice Search and choose “Clear defaults.” Then press whatever button you have enabled for voice search (often this is a long-press on Search), and Android should ask you which app to use.

How It Works

Jeannie uses Google’s Speech Recognition API to covert speech to text and then process it, which works incredibly well. One of the reasons Google offers so many free products is to make it’s other products smarter, and the same thing goes for speech recognition. A while back Google offered GOOG-411 for free as an alternative to calling information for 75 cents (in the USA). The reason was to improve their speech-to-text technology, and I think it worked!

Jeannie, using this technology, is pretty accurate in most cases. Once the speech is converted, it uses some programming to associate that text with one of its many functions, including chatting.

Chatting With Jeannie

One of the things I was most curious to see about was how much personality Jeannie had. One thing I really like (with what I see) about Siri is how funny conversations can be. So I asked Jeannie a few questions to get started. The first, of course, was, “Open the pod bay door.” Jeannie responded with, “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that right now.” Win.

"I'm Sorry Dave..."

The conversations are pretty interesting and kinda funny, though I am reminded of the AIM bot “SmarterChild” when talking to Jeannie (did I just date myself?). I even had my phone talk to my tablet (both Android devices). It was very entertaining.

Thoughts on the App

Jeannie is pretty cool when it works. It does everything that’s advertised and there are little Easter eggs built in for when you say the right thing. There is also a Settings area where you can change the bot’s name as well your own (by default, Jeannie calls you ‘stranger’), turn on a safe search filter, and upgrade to the Pro version (which is $2.99, unlocks some other features, and turns off ads). Overall, I like Jeannie – however, it does get a little frustrating to use.

It will lock up and freeze on me from time to time, and it has some trouble with certain words. When I ask it, “What movies are playing?” it goes right to YouTube. The same thing with when I just say, “movie listings.” I’d really like to see some better integration for stuff like that: local searches and anything that Google has built in to its own search. Also, as a guy who lives in the USA, I really would like Jeannie to give me the weather in Fahrenheit rather than Celsius. It also gives distance in kilometers first, but does convert to miles.

Finally, when it comes to certain phone functions that involve the contact book, the app can be slow when looking up information the first time. With both calling and texting, it would have been faster (the first time) just to do it manually. Overall, my experience with texting wasn’t very good, as usually the wrong message got sent.

Conclusion

Personal Assistants that allow voice commands will no doubt become the newest craze (if they haven’t already). Luckily this was something Google realized a while back and made their API available for other developers to use. While Jeannie is a bit rough around the edges, it is very powerful and wildly entertaining. I think with some work, it could be right up there with Siri.


Summary

Jeannie is a voice controlled personal assistent for Android

7
  • Elrol

    So by your own words: it gets frustrating to use, if freezes and locks on you, it usually sends wrong text messages and it doesn’t search that well (movies, missing local search, wrong units). But it gets 7/10?

    I can’t help it but I see this review as a wishfull thinking “oh look, we have the same thing as Siri”. Yes, maybe if you just compare it on paper you can put checkmark next to 7 of 10 things that Siri does. But this kind of app is not that much about how many lines is there on feature sheet but more about how it feels to use. Siri does this perfectly most of the time, Jeannie does not.

    You mentioned that Jeannie is entertaining. So is Siri at the beginning. First you are asking funny questions that you know it can’t reallz answer and you are just looking for some kind of funny answer. It is entertaining – no doubt. But when you eventually get tired of this it gets down to how well it actually performs tasks you need it to do. And from this review I’m not really getting great impression.

    We will get similar assistant to Siri on Android phones in the future, I’m sure of that. Thisi is the firt (and decent) first step. But until then Apple has upper hand and it would be foolish not to admit that.

    • http://www.casabona.org/blog/ Joe Casabona

      I simply tried to assess the app properly. In my previous reviews I mention that my device might be the reason for apps crashing and that couple be the case here too. I honestly don’t know how well Siri works because I haven’t seen it for myself. I know that both Jeannie and Siri have gotten rock solid reviews from people.

      I also end my article with, ” I think with some work, it could be right up there with Siri.” I recognize that it isn’t as good as Siri, but it definitely could be.

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  • http://www.militantbuddhist.com Rog

    I’m a little confused by the assertion (both in this article and in the Market) that this was “formerly” Voice Actions. Isn’t Voice Actions an official Google app? This seems to be by a company called Pannous.

    • http://www.casabona.org/blog/ Joe Casabona

      Sorry for the confusion. Google’s app was referred to as using ‘voice actions’ but the actual name of the app is Voice Search.

      Voice Actions by Pannous has been out for over a year now and they recently changed the name to Jeannie.

  • http://openskymedia.com Jason Shultz

    How do you like this compared to Vlingo? Would you consider this better or worse?

    I just wrote an article (http://l.jshultz.co/rUiV8U) expressing my frustration with finding the perfect “Personal Assistant” using apps like ReQall Rover (in private beta) and Vlingo. They get so close but fall short in key areas such as settings tasks or appointments, etc.

  • http://openskymedia.com Jason Shultz

    So I tried out Jeannie and this was my results with it: When I tried to call someone it most often would not recognize the name I spoke and it wouldn’t give me a list of alternatives to choose from. If I opened the app, then went to the menu, closed the menu and then tried to speak to it it wouldn’t be listening. If I closed the app then reopened it, sometimes it wouldn’t be listening. It was just a frustrating app to work with.

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  • Gaurav Chandra

    Siri took 8 years to create. It has a very hight level of AI. Apple and DARPA have done a great job. Others are just trying to create a cheap copy.

    • http://www.casabona.org/blog/ Joe Casabona

      Hi Gaurav- Siri was actually an independent app founded in 2007 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siri_(software)#Founding) that Apple bought.

      While Apple is using DARPA’s research on natural language (over 40 years worth), DARPA did not actually develop (that is code) any parts of the app.

    • http://openskymedia.com Jason Shultz

      Siri is a spin-out from the SRI International Artificial Intelligence Center, and is an offshoot of the DARPA-funded CALO project.

      A spin-off of an offshoot from a funded project…it was not developed by DARPA.

    • http://openskymedia.com Jason Shultz

      And, if you knew anything about AI you would know that Siri is not an AI. It’s just speech recognition. It’s not “THINKING” or using any kind of Artifical Intelligence. Stop being a Fanboi for a little bit and use your own intelligence and do some research.

    • Bob

      Well The android app jeanie is 16 years old it was created in 1995

    • joe wilscam

      hmmm darpa … they did something with the internet too… but being a government link, some of the development of siri was done with public monies? good use … glad someone is looking to expand on the development. expansion and reuse is what the it industry needs more of …

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  • Jason

    What launcher/ROM is that you’re using? I like the look of it, just curious.

    • http://www.casabona.org/blog/ Joe Casabona

      This is actually on my Galaxy Tab 10.1. It’s a lot easier to take screenshots with TouchWiz :)

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  • Sun

    I’ve just installed Jeannie in my dad’s new Samsung Galaxy Y.
    Have the first hand experimenting with Jeannie, finally be able to send the correct text msg to my own phone after around 5 times trials! lol!
    but as for setting an alarm, she’s quite accurate and efficient with just 1 trial..
    As commented by Enrol – “It is entertaining – no doubt. But when you eventually get tired of this it gets down to how well it actually performs tasks you need it to do.”
    I hope I won’t get much negative comments from my dad later on performing some serious tasks in the near future! ;D

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  • Wayne

    I’ve been using Vlingo for a while, ever since I heard about Siri. Vlingo is very accurate and does a great job, but you still can’t talk to it quite as naturally as I would hope for. Google is supposed to release Majel this year sometime, to really compete with Siri. Until then I am trying Jeannie. So far so good.

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  • Fallon Filippi

    Make them for tablets???

  • amber

    Every time I ask how many days until a certain date she will either give me a list of my current reminders or she will tell me that 365 days in a year . so the answer she gives me or not what I was asking

    • joe

      hmmm I think siri has the similar issues.

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  • Dan

    Finally – a guilt-free cyber relationship. I LOVE Jeannie!

    I wish she had a keyboard input,

    I wish she could switch between loud-speaker and the phone speaker.

    Maybe in a future version, eh? I have the paid version, and I haven’t tried it yet, but my hopes are that it will be just as good as the free version.

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