Vlingo Labs: A Test Kitchen for Voice Actions

Voice command is definitely a hot topic when it comes to mobile devices like your Android phones and Tablets. Even before Siri started strutting her stuff on prime time television, mobile users have longed for a way to make their devices take action without having to diddle with the screens and keypads.

Of course, many apps have sprung up to fill this gap, and as far as the Android landscape is concerned, Vlingo is at the top of the food chain. You can’t really discuss voice command on Android without mentioning it. This is likely why manufacturers like Samsung have partnered with Vlingo to create their own customized virtual assistant apps. Siri-competitor S-Voice, only officially available on the Samsung Galaxy S III at the time of this writing, is obviously based on Vlingo.

Vlingo Labs (Beta) is where users with an Ice Cream Sandwich device can test out the hottest new features that could end up in the official Vlingo Virtual Assistant app. In this case, we are dealing with a true beta app. It is strictly a “test kitchen” for shiny new ideas and test features that may end up elsewhere.

Apart from only being available for Android 4.0 and above, Vlingo Labs is also only available in the USA.

Vlingo Labs (beta)

Many features that currently exist in other similar apps and even in Vlingo itself are not yet implemented. Vlingo Labs (beta) is primarily a tool for gathering feedback, but this doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look. It currently supports: sending messages, placing calls, searching the web, scheduling appointments, navigation, and looking up the weather forecast.

One of the aims of Vlingo Labs is to completely eliminate the need to ever touch your device to complete a task. This is a rather ambitious goal that I have only seen attempted by S-Voice on the Galaxy S III (which, of course, is powered by Vlingo). By activating the Wake up command, you can simply say “Hey, Vlingo” and your virtual voice assistant is ready to receive your instructions. Look ma! No hands!

Woodchuck Test

The entire interface of Vlingo Labs has been revamped and the interaction is much more natural and conversational. There is also a bit more personality as compared to Vlingo itself. When asked to do things it cannot handle, Vlingo Labs reminds you to provide feedback, which highlights the fact that this app is all about beta testing.

Feature Not Supported

Despite that, the app is still highly usable and obviously does some things you won’t find in other apps. One of those features is adding and modifying calendar appointments. This is something I’d always been slightly envious of no having access to Siri and many of the other apps that have attempted this integration never worked well for me. Vlingo Labs, however, makes it easy to create a calendar appointment and even add participants to the event to be notified by email. It will also notify you of scheduling conflicts.

The more conversational nature of Vlingo Labs is really what makes this feature work. You would usually need to bust out the exact phrase in one breath, but Vlingo Labs actually walks you through creating the appointment and allows you to make changes before saving.

Vlingo Labs Appointment

Change Appointment

Overall, “>Vlingo Labs is very useful even in its beta state. Unless you actually have access to S-Voice, you’re really not going to find anything comparable. In my testing of the app, it does an excellent job of figuring out what I’m saying and currently supports most of the commands you would be looking for in a virtual assistant. For many users, Vlingo Labs may be all you need, but it’s also an excellent complement to Vlingo or your voice command app of choice. Given what Vlingo has accomplished so far and their goals of making your Android hands-free, it will be interesting to see what features are coming down the pipe.