Toady’s new beta update to iOS 8 features a change to the way the built-in dictation system works. In previous versions of iOS, dictating text into an app would send your voice to Apple’s server once you finished speaking to be analyzed and return the converted text. Siri used to function the same way, but with iOS 8 Apple made changes that allowed voice input to be streamed to the server for conversion while the user was still speaking.
As of iOS 8 beta 4, the system keyboard’s dictation feature now works the same way. Just like in Siri, you can now see each word appear almost immediately as you speak. It allows you to catch errors more quickly as they happen and brings the various voice-powered features of iOS in-line.
Check out the video below to see it in action:
OS X got this same feature when Mavericks launched last year in a mode called “enhanced dictation” that also allowed for offline speech-to-text conversion. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem offline mode is available on iOS just yet, though Apple is reportedly testing that feature now.
Filed under: iOS Tagged: beta, dictation, iOS 8, speech
Back in 2012 we noted that Apple was hiring engineers to help localize Siri into a number of languages the feature does not yet support. Those included Arabic, Norwegian, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, and Danish, and recently Apple has added job listings for three more languages: Russian, Brazilian Portuguese and Thai. Apple also posted more recent job listings for the languages it first started hiring for back in 2012.
While Apple didn’t announce any new languages for Siri coming in iOS 8 when it previewed the new operating system earlier this month, it’s always a possibility languages could be added in time for its release this fall.
Apple is yet to add support for the languages mentioned above that it started hiring for a couple years back. Currently, Apple lists the following languages and localizations as supported by Siri:
- United States (English, Spanish)
- United Kingdom (English)
- Australia (English)
- France (French)
- Germany (German)
- Japan (Japanese)
- Canada (English, Canadian French)
- China (Mandarin)
- Hong Kong (Cantonese)
- Italy (Italian)
- Korea (Korean)
- Mexico (Spanish)
- Spain (Spanish)
- Switzerland (Italian, French, German)
- Taiwan (Mandarin)
While not Siri support, Apple will be adding 24 new languages to its dictation feature in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite including Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, Thai, Portuguese and some of the other new languages it has been hiring engineers for recently.
Filed under: Apps Tagged: Apple, apple hiring, Apple. JOBS, brazilian portuguese, dictation, hiring, Jobs, language support, Languages, Siri, siri support russian, Thai
During its unveiling of iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 Yosemite yesterday, Apple mentioned that it’s adding 24 new dictation languages, but it didn’t specify what those languages would be. Dictation, a feature available on both iOS and OS X, uses speech-to-text technology powered by Nuance to let users input text using only their voice rather than a keyboard or touchscreen.
Apple has gone from just 8 languages (with a few variations for some) to over 30 in Yosemite. In case you’re curious if your language will make the cut by the time the new operating systems are released this fall, below we’ve included a full list of new supported languages and variations by country:
Apple actually has 23 languages listed, but it appears it’s counting variations of Portuguese for Brazil and Portugal as two new languages. Apple also announced yesterday that it’s adding Indian, Tagalog, Irish Gaelic, and Slovenian keyboards as well as new definition dictionaries for Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, Thai, and Turkish Hindi localization.
Filed under: Apps, iOS, Mac Tagged: 24, Arabic, Brazil, Dictate, dictation, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, iOS, iOS 8, iPhone, Languages, OS X, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak, speech to text, Swedish, Thai, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, yosemite
Using our voice to control computers has never really taken off. For many of us, using voice recognition technology wasn’t even a consideration until features like dictation and Siri arrived on our iPhones and iPads. There’s good reason too: the voice recognition features built into our devices have always had the reputation of being half-baked. They simply aren’t accurate and consistent enough to replace our tried and trusted mouse and keyboard or touchscreen. While half decent dictation features come with every Mac (and are powered by Nuance’s technology), the voice recognition features you get with latest version of Nuance’s Dragon Dictate for Mac go well beyond simply dictating speech to text.
When people think Nuance and Dragon Dictate they typically think speech to text dictation features. After reading a bit of text and walking through a brief tutorial (about 10 minutes total), the app is remarkably accurate at understanding your voice and dictating speech consistently. If you haven’t tried full-blown dictation software like Dragon in recent years like myself, you’ll truly be amazed at how precise the program is at dictating error-free text as you speak naturally. There’s no need to speak slowly and carefully to make sure every word is recognized, and there’s no waiting around for the software to catch up to what you’re saying.
So will I be writing my articles for 9to5Mac by simply speaking and having Dragon dictate from now on? Nope. Dragon Dictate won’t let you plow through a 5000 word piece nearly as quick as you’d type it, mainly because learning the commands necessary for formatting and corrections is like learning a new language. Basic commands seem easy enough to remember while dictating— Caps on, close quote, comma, ‘apostrophe ess’, insert, correct, new line— but in practice having to speak commands to properly format a sentence as you dictate takes away from the freedom of being able to capture your thoughts as you speak freely. I personally found the software much more useful for composing short snippets of text that typically don’t require much formatting or a deep train of thought that might be interrupted by formatting commands, like emails, Tweets, reminders, lists, and brainstorming sessions.
Of course, that process becomes much easier as you memorize and become more comfortable with the commands. While for me it won’t be replacing my keyboard on a daily basis for writing, that doesn’t mean with a little practice dictation in Dragon Dictate 4.0 can’t be a powerful alternative if necessary. Dragon Dictate has long been a popular product among those with medical conditions like arthritis that limit the ability to type comfortably or at all.
Admittedly your mileage with accuracy might vary depending on your accent (I was using the U.S. setting since there is no Canadian accent preference), but there are also region settings for the UK, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada and India, as well as accent preferences for American, American- Inland Northern, American- Southern, American- Teens, Australian, British, Indian, Latino, and Southeast Asian.
For me, the real standout feature of Dragon Dictate 4.0 is the ability to control applications on your Mac using only your voice. Dragon Dictate comes with a number of built-in commands that allow you to control functions across apps like Finder, Mail, Messages, Notes and Safari, as well as commands for composing email or sharing status updates to Facebook and Twitter. It also has a powerful built-in command editor that lets you setup your own voice commands for just about anything you can think of. Launch, quit, or hide applications, search the web, open a file or folder, or create a new reminder using only your voice. I set up commands for opening new tabs and navigating to specific tabs in Chrome, switching between or launching my commonly used full-screen apps by simply saying the app’s name, initiating playback in Logic Pro, as well as opening files and folders in Finder. The command editor is easy enough for anyone to setup commands for opening apps, bookmarks, files and folders, menu items, and any keystroke either system wide or within an app, but also has the ability to use AppleScript, Automator workflow, Shell script, and text macro for more complex voice commands. Once you get used to speaking to your Mac and asking it to do things, you’ll wonder why you always haven’t been searching the web, navigating Gmail, and launching and switching between apps and folders with your voice.
What’s new in 4.0:
For those that have used previous versions of the software, the upgrade to Dragon Dictate 4.0 has a lot to offer on top of an overall bump in speed and accuracy. It includes the ability to transcribe from various audio formats like mp3, air, or wav files, a feature that previously required a separate $149 purchase of Nuance’s MacSpeech Scribe software. Once you select an audio file to be transcribed, Dragon Dictate immediately starts transcribing around 60 seconds of the file as best it can without any training— the accuracy of the initial text will depend a lot on the quality of the recording. After correcting or approving the 60 seconds worth of text it transcribes (I usually found a correction or two to be made every other line), the software takes a few minutes to create a profile for the audio and train itself to accurately transcribe the rest of the file. It’s not perfect, the final transcription typically had a number of errors to correct unless the audio source was the cleanest, professional voice recording imaginable with no background noise. The transcription also comes out as one big blob of text with no concern for punctuation or grammar. Don’t expect a finished product quality transcription, but since it can transcribe the text in only a fraction of the actual length of the audio and pretty accurately, it will certainly trim a lot of time off transcriptions of long audio files.
The new version also packs in a long list of commands specifically for controlling Gmail in Safari and Firefox with your voice, as well as some nice enhancements for dictating into Pages.
The biggest issue I ran into with Dragon Dictate 4.0 was background noise getting picked up. There are commands to mute the mic, put it to sleep, or have it auto sleep, but that doesn’t do much to combat background noise when you have the mic on while dictating commands. On a few occasions background noise from either my devices, pets or the street would launch apps unexpectedly or begin dictating text when I wasn’t speaking. This was mostly an issue when using my Macbook’s built in mic and of course wouldn’t be a concern in a perfectly quiet room. It’s also partly your Mac’s fault; using a standalone vocal mic positioned properly, a headset, or the Dragon Remote app that turns your iPhone into a mic for your Mac will minimize these issues.
Is it worth the cost?
Dictation might not be faster than typing, but that’s not the point. The ability to transcribe voice memos and other audio files you’ve recorded on the go and control anything on your Mac with your voice would make Dragon Dictate an excellent value even without everything else it offers. And for those that for some reason can’t type or just don’t want to, the dictation features are worth every penny if Apple’s built-in features simply aren’t enough.
Dragon Dictate for Mac 4 usually sells for $199.99 but is currently on sale for $179. An upgrade from previous versions of Dictate is available for $149.
Filed under: Apps, Reviews Tagged: dictation, Dragon, Dragon Dictate, dragon dictate 4, Nuance, Speech recognition, speech recognition software
Apple is testing a local, offline version of Dictation voice input for iOS devices, according to strings of code found inside of the iOS 7 beta. The code, which was discovered by Hamza Sood, is located inside of both iOS 7 betas, but it is not present in iOS 6. Currently, when an iOS user uses their voice to input text using Dictation, the iOS device will use software that uploads your speech to the cloud to be converted into text. Because this relies on an internet connection and a cloud backend, this could sometimes mean errors and long-loading times, as well as some unwanted data usage…
Based on what Apple is testing, future versions of iOS could allow an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to process and convert speech from a user right on the device itself. This would speed up the process considerably, allowing emails, text messages, notes, and web searches take place via voice quicker than ever. The functionality is currently not active in public-facing builds, but we are told that devices internal to Apple have the function up and running.
We are also told that while local dictation is an option in these seeds, the former, cloud-based dictation process is present for certain situations. Perhaps this will be an option in Settings or an option based on internet conditions.
Google’s Android operating system includes offline dictation functionality, and in Apple’s pursuit of positioning iOS as superior to Android, perhaps this feature parity could sway more customers toward iOS. Apple’s own upcoming OS X Mavericks also includes the functionality by way of an extra several-hundred-megabyte downloadable package. It’s likely that any future version of iOS supporting offline dictation may require a similar download. As shown in our video above, the offline dictation feature in Mavericks provides live feedback.
While we do not have evidence of this, it seems plausible that Apple could eventually port over this technology from Dictation to Siri. This would allow certain queries to Siri to take place at a quicker pace. Both of Apple’s most recent “S” iPhone hardware refreshes have included new elements of voice technologies. For instance, the iPhone 3GS included Voice Control while the iPhone 4S introduced Siri. Perhaps the iPhone 5S, the likely successor the iPhone 5, will make use of local dictation as an exclusive feature. Local voice processing is a power-intensive process, so this could go hand-in-hand with the next iPhone’s improved processor and battery.
Over the past few weeks, we have found several unannounced iOS 7 features in testing, including new gesture options and LinkedIn integration. Like those other features, it is unclear if local dictation will survive the iOS 7 testing phase.
Apple has been improving Siri since the intelligent assistant first made its debut on the iPhone 4S back in October 2011, and has also been working to expand its availability; it’s now available on all the latest iOS devices, and some older ones, too. It seems inevitable that Siri will one day be introduced to the Mac as well, and that day could be getting closer as Apple searches for new engineers who will be tasked with bringing it to the desktop.
The new Apple job listing, which specifically calls for a “Siri UI Engineer,” mentions that the ideal candidate will posses “familiarity with Unix, especially with Mac OS X,” and boast knowledge of Cocoa, the core of Apple’s OS X operating system. They also need experience in one of the following: Android, Microsoft C#, Java, or C++.
Apple also says that the engineer should have a “passion for the Macintosh platform and writing simple, elegant software that is easy and fun to use.” They will focus specifically on Siri’s conversations view, according to the job post.
This is the strongest indication of future Siri integration for the Mac that we’ve seen to date. It doesn’t confirm anything, of course, but it shows that Apple is certainly working on porting its popular voice-controlled assistant to its desktops. And again, it’s a move that always seemed pretty inevitable, so it’s hardly a big surprise.
We know how powerful Siri can be on iOS devices, so can you imagine how great it would be on a Mac? Apple has already introduced its Dictation feature to Mountain Lion, but it would be great if we could send emails and iMessages, create Reminders, control media playback, and more using just our voice.
Apple’s next Mac update is expected to arrive this summer, but it’s likely the Cupertino company will announce it before then. Here’s to hoping that Siri will be one of its new features.