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Summary:

There are a lot of bad Siri imitators in the Android Market, but Monday night a pretty close approximation to Apple’s now-iconic personal assistant will be available. Nuance Communications is launching an Android version of Dragon Go, it’s voice-powered semantic search app.

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There are a lot of bad Siri imitators in the Android Market, but Monday night a pretty close approximation to Apple’s now-iconic personal assistant will be available. At CES, Nuance Communications is launching an Android version of Dragon Go, its voice-powered semantic search app.

Nuance developed the speech recognition and natural language technology that powers Siri and many other voice assistant services, but it also maintains its own consumer-facing applications under the Dragon banner. Earlier Monday at CES, Nuance announced Dragon TV, a voice interface platform for televisions and set-top boxes. Dragon Go, however, is hardly an exact approximation of Siri. It can’t integrate with the device’s on-board apps and features, but when it comes to searching for content off the device it can match, if not beat, Siri’s capabilities.

Nuance has a stable of 200 content providers ranging from Dictionary.com to Fandango, to which Dragon Go directs queries once Nuance’s network-based natural-language interpretation engine infers the searcher’s intent. For instance, you could tell Dragon Go to play a particular song by a favorite artist and it would either take you to Spotify, where the song would immediately start playing if you were a premium user, or to Pandora, which would play a preset station of that artist.

Asking Dragon Go for show times for a movie, and it would take you to Fandango, where the nearest theaters and their movies schedules would be listed, giving you the option to immediately by tickets. Like Siri, Dragon Go can access Wolfram Alpha to provide answers to scientific or technical questions. For more general trivia or current events questions, it links to Ask.com.

Launching on Android is a bit different than on iOS since Nuance has to test its app for each iteration of the OS. While Nuance said Dragon Go should work on any Android phone, certain features like its media player have to be optimized on a device-by-device basis. So far the list of optimized phones includes: the Samsung Galaxy Nexus S and Galaxy S II, the Motorola Razr, Droid X and Droid 3, and  the HTC Droid Incredible and MyTouch 4G.

Of course, there are plenty of other voice assistants available on Android. Vlingo’s Virtual Assistant performs many of the in-app functions that Siri can and Dragon Go can’t, but now that Nuance is buying Vlingo, it won’t be a competitor much longer. There is also Google’s Voice Actions, but as Kevin Tofel pointed out in his recent comparison between Siri and Voice Actions, there’s not much to compare. Google recognizes specific pre-determined commands, while services like Siri, Dragon Go and Vlingo can infer meaning from natural speech.

Nuance is extending voice and semantic search anywhere it can find a niche, from cars to Websites. Dragon TV marks its latest foray into a new realm of consumer electronics, one that is rather fitting considering how many people like to yell at their TVs. Unlike Dragon Go, a consumer simply can’t download the TV app onto their living room sets, but Nuance hopes to work with connected TV manufacturers, set-top box, and cable service providers to embed its platform in their products.

Dragon TV will work much the same way as Nuance’s other consumer-facing apps, taking in natural language speech commands and spitting out the intended results. For instance, a couch potato could say “go to PBS” and immediately be switched to the local affiliate or “record Dexter” to digitally tape the next scheduled recording of that show. The platform can understand more complex commands, such as “find comedies starring Vince Vaughn,” and even implement Siri-like requests such as sending text messages from the TV or updating a Face book status.

  1. How has Apple let this happen? It shoud have bought Nuance

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    1. Interesting point! Isn’t Siri “powered by Nuance”?

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      1. Kevin Fitchard Tuesday, January 10, 2012

        Nuance does supplies of the core speech recognition and natural language interpretation tech for Siri, but it’s not just white labeling the service to Apple. Nuance won’t go in to any detail about its relationship with Apple, so all I can say is part of Siri is Nuance and part is Apple.

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  2. Lê Đình Tuấn Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Is there any similar voice assistant service for non-Apple, non-Android phones (dump phones, feature phones). I mean a cloud service.

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    1. Kevin Fitchard Tuesday, January 10, 2012

      Hi Lê Đình Tuấn, I suppose there could be, but I don’t know of one. It would have to be either integrated directly into the device by the handset maker or a Java or BREW app, which could access the microphone of the device. The problem is that feature phones don’t have many options to output the results.

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  3. Android Market won’t allow Galaxy SII to install, despite being on the certified list.

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  4. Really unimpressed. Understands even less than Talk, has a terrible web browser (and one can’t even copy URIs!), and requires location services active for even a Bing search. Still looking…

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