November 12 2010
I’ve never led this page with an item that is free, but this is the age of the app, and these twin free applications for iPhone, iPad and BlackBerry are so remarkable – as well as being genuinely useful, time-saving and robust business tools – that they justify their selection.
Dragon Dictation and Dragon Search (the latter was not yet available for BlackBerry at the time of writing) are from Nuance, the company behind Dragon NaturallySpeaking and MacSpeech Dictate, the new-generation voice-recognition software I featured on Technopolis TV last summer. It’s since been improved and renamed Dragon Dictate. These, of course, are quite expensive paid-for products, and I’ll shortly explain how its phone app brothers come to be free.
Dragon Dictation lets you speak up to about 50 words into your phone. It transcribes this remotely (in Massachusetts) and, given a 3G signal or Wi-Fi, whizzes your words back to you in print in five to 20 seconds. It does this for anyone. You then correct any errors (rarely many) and use the passage as an SMS, e-mail, a Tweet, Facebook status or personal note. Fifty words isn’t much, but it’s enough for almost any of the above tasks, and the amount of fiddly tapping it saves is liberating.
Dragon Search seems even more miraculous. Open the app, press again the big “Tap and dictate” button, say whatever it is you want information on and within two to five seconds, you’ll be presented with a Google search of your term, a Wikipedia search, a Twitter stream if there’s a relevant one, ditto YouTube and ditto a list of music, all available to buy on the spot, natch.
This is technology as something perilously close to magic. How does Nuance do it for free? Well, voice dictation has never been so good, but companies such as Nuance want to make it better. For this, it needs samples of speech – zillions of them. So in the Ts and Cs that nobody ever reads you’ll see that it has the right to use your voice snippets to improve their product. Some might find this creepy; I think it’s simply genius. Power to them. This is life-enhancing stuff, and a brilliant business model.