Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Nuance updates Android voice assistant Dragon hands-free driver mode auto-detect, voice notifications

Nuance Communications released an update to its its Dragon Mobile Assistant app for Android on Tuesday. The update brings the app to version 4.0.0, and adds a number of features, including what it calls "Driver Mode Auto Detect."

According to Nuance, Dragon will detect when a user is in a moving vehicle and, when detected, will switch them to a hands-free mode. Of course, that will also switch passengers to hands-free mode, too.

There are always ways around that, however, and not always good ones (in terms of safety). As an example, the crowd-source navigation app Waze, recently acquired by Google, will disable text input if it thinks you are driving.

However, the easy way around that is to tell Waze you are the passenger. Not the safest way to do things -- particularly as we drive in California and -- several times a day -- see folks making phone calls without a headset and texting while driving.

For those against government regulation it's a prime example of why we create laws: People either don't have enough common sense to halt unsafe activity or just plain don't care (and really, when they are driving, they are placing our lives, not just theirs, at risk).

Dragon Mobile Assistant is similar to Samsung's S Voice and Apple's Siri. Its advantage is that it employs Nuance’s highly regarded voice recognition technology.

Nuance’s General Manager and Executive Vice President Michael Thompson said in a statement,
Dragon aspires to be an incredibly reliable and intuitive mobile personal assistant, not only responding to commands and providing relevant content, but also anticipating people’s needs in the moment -- just like a true personal assistant.
The app has plenty of rivals, though, including the above, Google Now, and multiple Siri clones in Google Play.

The full list of changes in version 4.0.0, provided by Nuance, is:
  • Driver Mode Auto Detect - Dragon automatically switches into Driver Mode when traveling is detected
  • Added Email dictation capabilities - use your voice to create an email (finally!)
  • Auto Readback of Facebook Newsfeed and Notifications activity
  • General stability and performance updates and a smattering of bug fixes
One thing unchanged is the app's inability to run on the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. When attempting to use the app, one must first agree to the Nuance's Terms of Service. With a GN 10.1, when you tap "Agree," the app crashes and the acceptance is never noted. In other words, you can't use the app because it thinks you have never accepted the TOS.

We have reported this bug to Nuance, but to no avail. Nuance's response is that the GN 10.1 hasn't been tested with the app and that we should wait for an update. Sadly, that's not a good answer.

It's possible -- in fact, likely due to Android fragmentation -- that the bug exists on other tablets.

Currently, Dragon is only available in English and only for U.S. users.

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