Diary writing is an art of self-documentation that is virtually as old as writing itself. It is also a dying art. A respectable population of journal-keepers there may still be, but aside from these committed wordsmiths, society at large is simply not finding the time to keep a log. That’s a shame.
It also seems like an unnecessary chore. The huge quantity of digital data we produce on a daily basis, if collated, could provide a fairly accurate picture of our by-the-minute activities. Such an idea may seem somewhat futuristic, but this is the ambition which drove development company Dexetra to create the life-logging app, Friday. But this six-man team wanted to go beyond a simplistic journal; Binil Anthony, co-founder and CMO of Dexetra, outlined the vision to me — “to find info of an externality, we have Google and a lot of other search engines. But how do we search for things in our personal lives?”
A good question. With Friday, Dexetra intended to capture much of the data generated in daily phone use and combine it with the natural language processing engine found in their first app, Iris, in order to create a voice-searchable personal database. An incredible concept, for sure, but has it worked?
Every year there’s one Monday morning in June where the company Google loves to hate takes the very same stage that previously hosted Android announcements to present updates to iOS, amongst other things. This year was no difference but with a rumoured significant design change, the 2013 instalment is perhaps one of the most anticipated.
iOS 7 has delivered a new design with a skeuomorphic-less, flatter design somewhat resemblant of the design principles of Google’s Holo and Microsoft’s Metro. In this article, we’re going to take a look at iOS 7 and see how it stacks up to the incumbent versions of Android.
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had their own personal assistant? They could keep track of your daily schedule, look stuff up for you, and, in a perfect world, even run out to grab a cup of coffee for you. Maluuba is the Android version of a personal assistant and it can do pretty much anything a real personal assistant can do, except maybe the coffee.
Ever since Apple embraced its own voice assistant Siri, there have been several “Siri alternatives” released in the Play Store. Finding a good one though has been quite difficult, until Maluuba entered the scene as worthy contender. Like Siri, it falls under the “voice assistant” category, because it has the ability to listen to your voice and respond accordingly. Maluuba’s website breaks down the app’s ability into three categories: search, organize, and connect. Having used it extensively for several months, I will take a detailed look at each of these aspects.
Both authors highlight an important difference between Android’s Voice Actions and iOS’s Siri (aside from the marketing): Voice Actions works like a command line or keyboard shortcut, while Siri aims to be a natural language computer assistant.
It reminds me of Yahoo Search vs. Ask Jeeves back in the early 2000s; so-called “natural language” recognition may be more elegant and impressive and capable of constructing complex queries, but it’s far from natural – the natural way to inquire about something is to point at it and grunt. This could be why keyword-based search engines have typically been way more popular and useful. Want food? Search [food].
I’ve been enjoying playing with Vlingo in the past week, grunting commands like “play music”, “call Bob”, “search killer whale length”. This, to me, is much more comfortable than asking “How long is the average killer whale?”
I’m not trying to knock Siri – I don’t even have an iPhone so I can hardly give it a fair evaluation, and I believe it can cope with “grunt” commands as well – I’m just making the point that I’m happy happy with voice commands, without the need for full natural language processing.
What about you?
If you follow the ongoing Google vs Apple battle, you’ll likely have noticed Motorola’s recent marketing campaign that’s been making headlines. Motorola took to YouTube to try to diminish the threat of the iPhone 4S by pitting Android’s Voice Actions against iPhone’s Siri.
Voice control is something that a lot of people clearly care about, considering the iPhone 4S’s record-breaking sales when it’s primary addition was Siri. However, I don’t think it’s right to compare Siri to Google Voice Actions since they’re really two different things: one’s an interface and one’s merely an input method. (more…)
When Google launched Voice Actions a couple of years ago, I was really excited. I could do a Google search by voice, send a text, call someone, play music, or even email memos to myself. It was both fast and accurate – and why wouldn’t it be? Google has been gathering voice data for years through several services, including their free information line, GOOG-411. I was excited.
When Apple launched Siri just last year, I thought, “Great; another Google rip-off.” Then I started using it. I found that even if Voice Actions (VA) is more accurate, Apple wins this battle because it thought something through better than Google did: the user experience.
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. (more…)
All the buzz about Siri has got me thinking about Google Voice Actions. Remember those? Hold Search for a couple of seconds, and a dialog box will appear; you can then say something like “send text to Joe Bloggs: running late, meet you outside”, or “listen to: the Beatles”, or “note to self: pick up milk”. Here’s an article and video explaining how to Voice Actions, from August 2010.
Sam Cater talked about Iris – a proof-of-concept Android clone of Siri knocked together in a few hours – in this morning’s Opinion post. Iris is more proof (if proof were needed) that voice control is not a holy grail of technology, or even particularly hard to achieve these days. ViaVoice and Dragon NaturallySpeaking, two pieces of desktop software that allow speech transcription and voice-activated computer interaction, were first released in 1997.
It seems that this is a recurring fad; every now and then, pundits get super-excited about the potential future of this type of interface… and then all excitement fades away for another year or so. But is this because voice control is an idea that sounds better in theory than it is in practice, or have developers just not managed to do it right yet? (In which case, perhaps Siri will be the first to meet that potential.) Vote in the poll, and let us know in the comments why you do or don’t use Google Voice Actions. (Personally, I find it simpler to tap, swipe and type. Well, also, the phone has difficulties understanding my British accent.)
Earlier this month, Apple unveiled Siri for the iPhone 4S. While the technology behind it isn’t particularly revolutionary, from what I understand it works well and is fun to use.
Not soon after it was announced, a copycat attempt of Siri for Android was created: Iris (“Siri” backwards). Though it is nice to see developers attempt to bring some of iOS’s finer points to Android, there is definitely some way to go yet.
Read on for my opinions on both Iris, and application cloning between smartphone platforms.