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How to get voice command on your devices

Tushar Kanwar     February 6, 2012

Ah, Siri. The promise of having your own full-time flunky, ready to perform menial tasks that you don't have time for, is a big part of the appeal of the iPhone 4S, and one that has captured the public imagination like few other phone features have. Is it wrong to expect such slavish attentiveness from your other platforms? Here's how you can get Siri-like features on the platform of your choice.

Be warned though that while talking to your gadgets might still be in its infancy, the future, where we will be voice-commanding, even conversing with them, isn't that far away.

App-savvy Android owners have, in all fairness, had voice recognition capabilities for a while now. For instance, Voice Actions, a Google feature introduced for Android 2.2 devices, lets users call contacts, send messages and email, complete common tasks like playing music, finding a location on the map, searching the web etc. Part of Google's Voice Search, the app expects you to use set phrases instead of the conversation language you can use with Siri, and doesn't always return a voice-result, forcing you to read the results off the screen.

Another alternative, albeit awkwardly named, is the SpeakToIt Assistant. Unlike other assistants, this one actually presents you with an animated person on screen with whom you can talk to, and even customise their appearance. It handles most tasks such as making calls, checking weather and searching for answers to questions with elan, and even transcribes messages and status updates for Facebook and Twitter. And while other alternatives exist in the form of Vlingo, Edwin, Jeannie and Eva, the most promising one by far is Iris. Yes, if the name sounds familiar, that's because it is Siri spelt backwards, and its developers have no qualms about their inspiration (Iris stands for Intelligent Rival Imitation of Siri). The interface is similar and while it is no equal to Siri at this point, its developers have been updating it frequently.

With Siri not legitimately available for any iOS devices other than the 4S, iOS users were left out of the Siri party, this despite the iPad2 sporting hardware that is capable of performing the Siri gymnastics. Yes, iPhone users have had Voice Control since the 3GS, which you can use to perform simple commands like "Call Neha" or play a song from your library, but that's pretty much where the functionality stops.

For more, try the Vlingo Voice App, which uses voice commands to let users dictate an email, send a text message or update their social network status, in addition to the regulars - making a call, finding someplace on the map or just a plain old web search. Unlike Siri, you will have to keep Vlingo's lingo in mind and say one of four commands before the request: find, search, social update or call (Vlingo is available for Android, Blackberry, iOS and Nokia platforms). If it is just web search you're interested in, the Google app for iOS allows you to use voice commands instead of typing in a search query. And since it ties into Google, the app can use location to help you find movie times, local businesses etc.

(Nuance has a number of excellent Dragon voice command and control apps that are not available in the Indian App Store)

Why should smartphones have all the fun? PC users on Windows 7 can head over to Start > Control Panel > Ease of Access > Speech Recognition, and click on "Start Speech Recognition". Go through the wizard to detect your microphone and then take the highly recommended tutorial - it's a little lengthy, but will help you learn how to use speech recognition, while training your computer to learn the way you speak.

Once done, you can use Speech Recognition to do a number of things, like open or switch to programs, minimise or close windows and more. On a Mac, head over to System Preferences, then click on the Speech options to enable the feature. Once calibrated, the Speakable Items feature on the Mac lets you do a ton of things without lifting a finger. Granted, it doesn't have the conversation value of Siri, but if you're in the mood for truly awful knock-knock jokes, you can even command your Mac to tell you one!

Courtesy: Gadgets and Gizmos

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