VoiceThis Dialer Tries to Bring Voice Dialing to iPhone

MacRumors

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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HRL Technologies has released VoiceThis Dialer [App Store] to the iTunes App Store. The $9.99 application tries to bring voice dialing to the iPhone. This is not the first application to try, but does take a different approach than existing solutions.

SpeechCloud's VoiceDialer [Free, App Store] was the first iPhone application to try to offer speech dialing on the iPhone. VoiceDialer takes advantage of the iPhone's always-on internet connection to record your voice and send it to SpeechCloud's servers to perform the actual recognition. Once recognized, the application pulls up the contact's name and allows you to select which number to dial. Some of the criticism of the application is that it requires too much manual interaction (tapping on buttons) to actually dial a number, and slow response time due to the transferring of data across wireless networks.

Next up was Makayama's VoiceDial [$14.99, App Store], which has drawn a fair amount of App Store commenter criticism for it's high price. VoiceDial takes a different approach by avoiding actual speech recognition and instead performing audio comparison. VoiceDial requires you to actually record your own voice for each contact which can then later be used to match your voice command. A video demo of the product is offered by its publisher. If you are willing to pay the $15 and willing to record yourself saying your contacts, MercuryNews claims the product "works as advertised" and "had no problems recognizing the contact I wanted to call, even when it was similar to other names I'd recorded."

Now comes HRL Technologies' VoiceThis Dialer [App Store], a $9.99 application that actually tries to perform speech recognition within the iPhone itself. No wireless connection required. Instead, the application runs within the iPhone. VoiceThis Dialer promises to offer completely hands free activity with the ability to dial contacts and even quit the application with your voice.

Unfortunately, during my brief testing, the application performed poorly with voice recognition. In fact, I had to cut testing short due to it persistently dialing the wrong number. There is a confirmation mode that can be turned on, also by a voice command, but ironically, I couldn't get it to recognize it. With no audio or voice prompts at all, I found myself looking at the phone continuously to see if the audio level was reading or if the proper number had been chosen. This visual attention negated any benefit from the addition of a voice dialer to my phone.

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NightFox

macrumors 68020
May 10, 2005
2,151
1,146
Shropshire, UK
I'm surprised we've not got anything better yet - voice tagging (i.e. sound comparison rather than true speech recognition) has been common in even budget mobiles for almost 10 years now, and true speech recognition has been available on the Windows Mobile platform for 2 or 3 years now in the form of Microsoft's Voice Command - which not only allows voice dialing, but also basic PDA and MP3 functionality (e.g. "What is my next appointment?", "Next Song" and "what is the battery level?"), all of which would be met with a spoken response. Admittedly, the speech recognition struggles if there is too much background noise, but in ideal conditions it is pretty impressive and accurate.

So if MS can come up with something like this almost as an experiment (they hardly make any effort to market it), how come no-one can do local speech recognition on the iPhone platform?
 

AustinSTI

macrumors 6502
Jul 2, 2007
394
0
I'm surprised we've not got anything better yet - voice tagging (i.e. sound comparison rather than true speech recognition) has been common in even budget mobiles for almost 10 years now, and true speech recognition has been available on the Windows Mobile platform for 2 or 3 years now in the form of Microsoft's Voice Command - which not only allows voice dialing, but also basic PDA and MP3 functionality (e.g. "What is my next appointment?", "Next Song" and "what is the battery level?"), all of which would be met with a spoken response. Admittedly, the speech recognition struggles if there is too much background noise, but in ideal conditions it is pretty impressive and accurate.

So if MS can come up with something like this almost as an experiment (they hardly make any effort to market it), how come no-one can do local speech recognition on the iPhone platform?

The Voice tagging app is mentioned above (as $14.99) and works as advertised according to the reviewer. What MS does with Synch isn't easy at all let alone easy to compact into a phone. Give it time; it'll happen
 

rustyhoge

macrumors newbie
Nov 2, 2003
10
0
Baltimore, MD
MS Voice Command is the right approach

I was excited when MS came out with Voice Command. I immediately installed it on my Pocket PC and it just plain works!

Voice dialing needs to allow you to call any contact with NO looking at the phone. I need to be able to hold the call button on my headset/bluetooth to get the applications attention and then just tell it who I want to call. It needs respond by voice, we agree, and then it dials.

Austin, I hope you are right that this is coming to an iPhone near you. I am sure this is no easy task, but it would make the iPhone a lot safer tool for in-car use.
 

liujieming

macrumors newbie
Aug 5, 2008
13
0
Message from VoiceThis Dialer Support Staff

We are currently trying to get to the bottom of the crashing issue, we did not encounter this problem in our testing and so were not aware of the issue until now. After initial testing, we found there are some unsupported characters that if in your address book will cause our app to fail to launch (?, #, $, %, *, &, @, etc.) and other non-supported language formats such as Chinese. Try removing these if you have any and try again.

As for recognition, our testing showed extremely high accuracy if you speak close into the iPhone internal mic or headset mic. Make sure you are saying "Call" first followed by the contact name. Just speak naturally, no long pauses in between words. The reason you must speak close into the iPhone mic was to counter the issues with background noise when you have an automatic gain control mic like in the iPhone. Otherwise although you could speak further away, but it would never work outside, in the car, or other common noisier environments.

I also sincerely apologize about the website not quite being finished by app launch, we were having difficulties with our web host and it should be up today. You can also watch a live demo of the app on Youtube which will demonstrate just how good the app really is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59sb7rxNXUI.
We will be posting more videos to reassure everyone of this until we fix many of the issues and release a free update.
We also ask anyone with issues to please email our support email address at info@hrltech.com so we can answer everyone's questions and try to solve all issues.
 

no_name

macrumors member
Aug 26, 2005
36
0
Ottawa, Canada
There's no way that voice recognition can't work on the iPhone. Every Mac I've owned could take voice commands quite handily, way back to OS 7. And it was built into the OS, in fact it still is. If Apple has had this tech for well over a decade running on machines that aren't nearly as powerful as an iPhone, and since the iPhone OS is Mac OS X, where's the speech recognition?
 

ccrandall77

macrumors regular
Jan 6, 2004
240
0
Franklin, WI
This is the biggest feature missing from the iPhone

This is my #2 reason to not even touch an iPhone at this time (#1 being ATT). Even my wife's Samsung flipphone that we bought for less than $99 can do FLAWLESS voicedialing using VoiceSignal's VoiceDialer app that now comes on nearly every Sprint phone. I have it on my BlackBerry Curve and it's by far the best voicedialer I've seen. No voice tags and it usually nails what I say the first time w/o the need for confirmation... even works well over Bluetooth.

I thought I saw that Nuance (who I believe bought VoiceSignal) is working on their voice app for the iPhone. When that comes out, that should provide an excellent solution... just hope they would support dialing over bluetooth.
 

Marzzz

macrumors regular
Nov 1, 2002
193
112
The Desert
I guess I miss the point of voice dialing- the only time I would use it is in my car, but then my car's bluetooth system takes care of it on its own (note to Apple: please fix the bluetooth echo problem with the iPhone 3G!). Otherwise it is not an issue with me....
 

sandman42

macrumors 6502a
Oct 23, 2003
945
57
Seattle
I'm also puzzled why this has been such a challenge. My nearly 3 year old Verizon RAZR has voice dialing by VoiceSignal that works really well. It doesn't require me to record 'voice names' for any of my contacts, it can listen to the spoken name (in anyone's voice, not just mine) and find the best match in my entire contact list. It also allows me to speak numerous other commands ("check status", "lookup...", "Send text to...", etc) and those work great. All I have to do is touch one button on the phone (or on my headset) and I can do the rest with my voice (well, except for typing text msgs). Why hasn't the iPhone, with its vastly superior memory and processing power, been able to handle this function, especially now that many areas are mandating hands-free operation in cars?
 

AppleIntelRock

macrumors 65816
Aug 14, 2006
1,365
0
for me, lack of voice dialing is more something to complain about... rather then something i actually miss
 

sandman42

macrumors 6502a
Oct 23, 2003
945
57
Seattle
The YouTube video shows the caller having to make two separate voice commands to call a contact with more than one phone number, e.g. "Call John Doe", then "Call mobile". Can this be accomplished with one command, like, "Call John Doe mobile"? That's how it works with the current VoiceSignal software on my Verizon phone (also without the need to pre-record 'voice names').
 

gceo

macrumors 6502a
Jul 13, 2007
655
1
San Diego, CA
It still amazes me how well my super old POS Motorola did this. Even with a BT headset.... Makes the iPhone seem really really behind the times. Especially with this new 'hands free' law in CA.
 

Camui

macrumors member
Jan 10, 2007
53
0
Texas
The ability to cut, copy, & paste is a feature I would love to have but hands free is a more important feature to me personally.

I can personally live without the ability to cut, copy, & paste until Apple releases it but the ability to use my iPhone hands free would be incredibly helpful right now. I'd really rather not buy a bluetooth car kit.
If one of the applications can successfully beat Apple to the punch, I would be quite happy.
I wouldn't be too fond of having to pay for the service, when it would be nice if Apple had already implemented it, but if the software was of high enough quality, I might not mind.

That's how I feel about it personally.
 

liujieming

macrumors newbie
Aug 5, 2008
13
0
The YouTube video shows the caller having to make two separate voice commands to call a contact with more than one phone number, e.g. "Call John Doe", then "Call mobile". Can this be accomplished with one command, like, "Call John Doe mobile"? That's how it works with the current VoiceSignal software on my Verizon phone (also without the need to pre-record 'voice names').
Hi Sandman42,

The VoiceThis Dialer app actually has a really neat feature you probably don't have on your VoiceSignal software for "Redialing" contacts. With this function you are pretty much bypassing any need to specify a phone type for contacts with multiple numbers. As long as you have called the contact recently (just has to be in your recent calls list) and say Redial followed by contact name it will automatically call that most recent number. So if you are calling someone frequently at the same number and don't want to keep choosing it each time, this is a perfect opportunity to use the Redial feature. In the current version there is no command for "Call John Doe Mobile", but this is a potential add-on for updated versions. A lot of users we found also separated contacts already by phone type "John Doe Cell", "John Doe home" etc. so in effect this is already creating the command.
 

sandman42

macrumors 6502a
Oct 23, 2003
945
57
Seattle
Hi Sandman42,

The VoiceThis Dialer app actually has a really neat feature you probably don't have on your VoiceSignal software for "Redialing" contacts. With this function you are pretty much bypassing any need to specify a phone type for contacts with multiple numbers. As long as you have called the contact recently (just has to be in your recent calls list) and say Redial followed by contact name it will automatically call that most recent number. So if you are calling someone frequently at the same number and don't want to keep choosing it each time, this is a perfect opportunity to use the Redial feature. In the current version there is no command for "Call John Doe Mobile", but this is a potential add-on for updated versions. A lot of users we found also separated contacts already by phone type "John Doe Cell", "John Doe home" etc. so in effect this is already creating the command.
Thanks! That is an interesting feature, and undoubtedly useful, but there are some people in my contact that I commonly call on as many as 3 phones (e.g. home, work, mobile) depending on where I expect them to be. In my opinion it would definitely be a worthwhile improvement if you could streamline the command process to allow the user to say the name and the 'phone type' in one command.

I see how this may only work for users who group all the numbers for a single person under one contact entry, rather than creating numerous entries, though I suppose the software could still try to match the spoken command with either type of entry.

Thanks again!
 

yayaya

macrumors newbie
Aug 6, 2008
2
0
Not truely hands free until my headset opens the app...

This app (when stable) will not be useful unless I can hit the button on my Bluetooth and it will open up the app and ask me to "say a command". With my cheap-y Moto phone this is all I had to do. Are you guys going to add this feature in the future?

We are currently trying to get to the bottom of the crashing issue, we did not encounter this problem in our testing and so were not aware of the issue until now. After initial testing, we found there are some unsupported characters that if in your address book will cause our app to fail to launch (?, #, $, %, *, &, @, etc.) and other non-supported language formats such as Chinese. Try removing these if you have any and try again.

As for recognition, our testing showed extremely high accuracy if you speak close into the iPhone internal mic or headset mic. Make sure you are saying "Call" first followed by the contact name. Just speak naturally, no long pauses in between words. The reason you must speak close into the iPhone mic was to counter the issues with background noise when you have an automatic gain control mic like in the iPhone. Otherwise although you could speak further away, but it would never work outside, in the car, or other common noisier environments.

I also sincerely apologize about the website not quite being finished by app launch, we were having difficulties with our web host and it should be up today. You can also watch a live demo of the app on Youtube which will demonstrate just how good the app really is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59sb7rxNXUI.
We will be posting more videos to reassure everyone of this until we fix many of the issues and release a free update.
We also ask anyone with issues to please email our support email address at info@hrltech.com so we can answer everyone's questions and try to solve all issues.
 

AppleFan360

macrumors 68020
Jan 26, 2008
2,186
674
This app (when stable) will not be useful unless I can hit the button on my Bluetooth and it will open up the app and ask me to "say a command".
This is the one thing that is holding me back from buying any of these apps. There must be bluetooth voice dial with audio feedback. My wife's 2 year old Samsung does this and it's wonderful. The developers really need to take this a few steps further before I pay any money for a voice dial app.
 

liujieming

macrumors newbie
Aug 5, 2008
13
0
Thanks! That is an interesting feature, and undoubtedly useful, but there are some people in my contact that I commonly call on as many as 3 phones (e.g. home, work, mobile) depending on where I expect them to be. In my opinion it would definitely be a worthwhile improvement if you could streamline the command process to allow the user to say the name and the 'phone type' in one command.

I see how this may only work for users who group all the numbers for a single person under one contact entry, rather than creating numerous entries, though I suppose the software could still try to match the spoken command with either type of entry.

Thanks again!
Hey Sandman42,

Look for this new feature to call the contact name and common phone types (home, work, mobile) in one command directly soon in updated versions. We definitely are looking to streamline the process.
 

liujieming

macrumors newbie
Aug 5, 2008
13
0
This is the one thing that is holding me back from buying any of these apps. There must be bluetooth voice dial with audio feedback. My wife's 2 year old Samsung does this and it's wonderful. The developers really need to take this a few steps further before I pay any money for a voice dial app.
Hi Chris,

Unfortunately Apple currently does not provide the API for access to bluetooth headset audio input. This is why none of the voice dialers have this feature, if it were possible trust me we definitely would have enabled this. As soon as this becomes possible we will release a free update with bluetooth support. The only headset it will work with currently is the earbud headset with inline mic that came with your iPhone (audio input switches automatically to headset when plugged in). Whereas the bluetooth headset audio input currently turns on only after the native phone app is loaded to place the call.
 

liujieming

macrumors newbie
Aug 5, 2008
13
0
This app (when stable) will not be useful unless I can hit the button on my Bluetooth and it will open up the app and ask me to "say a command". With my cheap-y Moto phone this is all I had to do. Are you guys going to add this feature in the future?
Hi yayaya,

Unfortunately Apple currently does not provide the API for access to bluetooth headset audio input. This is why none of the voice dialers have this feature, if it were possible trust me we definitely would have enabled this. As soon as this becomes possible we will release a free update with bluetooth support. The only headset it will work with currently is the earbud headset with inline mic that came with your iPhone (audio input switches automatically to headset when plugged in). Whereas the bluetooth headset audio input currently turns on only after the native phone app is loaded to place the call.
 

AppleFan360

macrumors 68020
Jan 26, 2008
2,186
674
Hi Chris,

Unfortunately Apple currently does not provide the API for access to bluetooth headset audio input. This is why none of the voice dialers have this feature, if it were possible trust me we definitely would have enabled this. As soon as this becomes possible we will release a free update with bluetooth support. The only headset it will work with currently is the earbud headset with inline mic that came with your iPhone (audio input switches automatically to headset when plugged in). Whereas the bluetooth headset audio input currently turns on only after the native phone app is loaded to place the call.
Thanks for the response. In that case I might go ahead and purchase your app if you feel you might be able to provide an upgrade later with Bluetooth.
 

yayaya

macrumors newbie
Aug 6, 2008
2
0
liujieming, thanks for the reply! Totally makes sense; I look forward to the update.

Hi yayaya,

Unfortunately Apple currently does not provide the API for access to bluetooth headset audio input. This is why none of the voice dialers have this feature, if it were possible trust me we definitely would have enabled this. As soon as this becomes possible we will release a free update with bluetooth support. The only headset it will work with currently is the earbud headset with inline mic that came with your iPhone (audio input switches automatically to headset when plugged in). Whereas the bluetooth headset audio input currently turns on only after the native phone app is loaded to place the call.
 

kajitox

macrumors 6502a
May 2, 2007
581
0
I guess I miss the point of voice dialing- the only time I would use it is in my car, but then my car's bluetooth system takes care of it on its own (note to Apple: please fix the bluetooth echo problem with the iPhone 3G!). Otherwise it is not an issue with me....
Don't know if you live in California, but you can get a ticket if you have a phone in your hand while driving. Voice dialing is near essential and nearly impossible unless you have some cash to spend on iTunes.
 

RicAlonso

macrumors newbie
Feb 5, 2008
9
0
Don't know if you live in California, but you can get a ticket if you have a phone in your hand while driving. Voice dialing is near essential and nearly impossible unless you have some cash to spend on iTunes.
That's not actually true. California law only prohibits the driver from holding the phone to your face. It is perfectly legal to dial a phone while driving. Of course that is also dangerous and one reason that I feel voice dialing is essential.

Ironically, it is perfectly legal in CA to drive while texting. It is also legal to drive while speaking on your cell using the speakerphone and holding the phone in one hand. It's a ridiculously silly law.

And because of car noise, I actually find myself cupping my bluetooth with my hand to improve voice quality. That's perfectly legal, but not holding the phone to my ear.

The purpose of this law supposedly is to reduce the driver's distractions while driving. I wonder how much more distracted a driver is while using a bluetooth headset with poor quality, as opposed to holding the phone to the ear.