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Nuance, the company behind the Dragon Naturally Speaking Dictation software, is making a big play to be the main speech technology behind mobile apps. The company has launched the Nuance Mobile Developer Program that gives iOS (s aapl) and Android (s goog) developers access to the Nuance Mobile SDK to integrate the Dragon Mobile speech platform into their apps.
If you’ve used Nuance’s Dragon Dictation app or experienced Google’s Voice Search and Voice Actions or seen Siri, the mobile assistant app that Apple bought, you know the power of voice input. Speech recognition can be wonky at times, but it’s increasingly accurate and shows how natural inputs like voice can evolve the mobile experience beyond touch. Nuance already powers apps like Siri, Price Check by Amazon (s amzn) and Ask.com. Now, that power should be available to a lot more developers and should work its way into many more apps.
The Nuance developer program will be available through a self-service website that will allow developers to easily incorporate the Dragon technology into their apps. The developer portal will offer 90 days of free access to Nuance Mobile SDK’s, training materials and user support forums. Developers will be able to speech-enable eight languages: US and UK English, European Spanish, European French, German, Italian and Japanese. For speech-to-text functionality, the Dragon platform can handle 35 languages. The SDK will be available for iOS 4.0 devices and for many devices running Android 2.1 and up.
While the first 90 days of membership are free, Nuance said there will be tiered pricing options for developers based on their needs. So it won’t be free. Nuance will also not be the first. Sensory last October also offered an SDK for iPhone and Android developers to incorporate its Truly Handsfree Trigger technology, but that SDK costs $2,500.
As I wrote about recently, mobile developers are going to increasingly have to get clever about how they create and update their apps. As the apps get more complex with new updates and functionality, it’s going to be important to find ways to simplify the experience and maintain the promise of mobile apps as easy to use software. I think voice input will be an important way to ensure that mobile apps remain simple and unique. It won’t be good for every app but it could be an important tool for mobile developers to keep their apps engaging and efficient.
Speech is an important battleground and you’re seeing Google and Microsoft (s msft) in particular working their investments in voice technology. I think the Nuance SDK will bring the technology further into the limelight. Another intriguing question is whether platform owners like Google may try to stifle Nuance. Google, as you may recall, has been accused by Skyhook of working to prevent Motorola from using Skyhook’s Wi-Fi technology. It seems unlikely for Google to block Nuance-enabled apps, but it’s a thought considering the growing importance of speech. Though Om wondered aloud why Apple doesn’t buy Nuance, we may see others looking that way as well as speech becomes even more integral to the computing experience.
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