The Toq smartwatch that shows off Qualcomm’s(s qcom) display and wearable technology learned a new trick on Monday: Voice input. Using Toq Talk, the watch can respond to incoming text messages through speech. Voice input is powered by Nuance(s nuan), which has partnered with Qualcomm for Toq Talk.
So how does it work? Fairly well, based on some testing I did this past weekend with a review unit and early build of the new software that adds Toq Talk. And I expected the good performance: Nuance’s speech recognition and processing technology is among the best in the business, powering Siri on Apple’s iPhone(s aapl), for example. You can speak your message complete with punctuation and re-record it if the software didn’t quite get it right on the first try.
For now, Toq Talk is limited to text messages and has a 9 second speech limit, so you won’t be controlling apps or interacting with email or social media networks by speaking to the smartwatch. The addition of Toq Talk however, fits in with Qualcomm’s overall vision for the smartwatch: To show hardware makers what’s possible. The Toq uses a low-powered, color display built on Qualcomm’s Mirasol technology and has a unique wireless charger, for example.
As a result, Qualcomm isn’t pushing the Toq through mainstream consumer channels. The company sells the smartwatch directly for $249 but only produced a limited run of the wearable. And a check of the Qualcomm Toq app in the Google Play store illustrates this: The Toq app — required to pair an Android(s goog) phone with the watch — has only been downloaded between 10,000 and 50,000 times.
When I reviewed the device I noted that Qualcomm has put some great hardware technology together but the software was lacking. The Toq is a better concept device than an end-user product. Toq Talk doesn’t change my mind, but it does illustrate that Qualcomm continues to understand the way we’ll need to interact with wearable devices.
Inputing text on small screens is a chore through traditional touch displays. Voice is a more seamless, natural method and that’s why the upcoming Android Wear watches coming from LG and Motorola will use voice input for messages and Google Now queries.