Well, all right, that's not quite true. But Intel is betting big on bringing voice control to Ultrabooks, and they're paying big bucks to Nuance to make it happen. As part of his keynote speech this morning to kick off Intel's annual developers' forum, Intel EVP Dadi Perlmutter showed off some surprisingly good voice demonstrations. The chipmaker is partnering with Nuance, a longtime provider of vocal recognition systems, and the company responsible for the voice recognition in Apple's much-beloved and much-maligned Siri.
The fact that you can use your voice to control your computer is nothing new. Frankly, the fact that you can even do it well is nothing new. The recent iterations of Nuance's software have become pretty great, at least at actually dictating your physical speech. Like always, context has been a bit lacking - it's hard to force yourself to say things like "period" and "new line", and chaining commands together is likewise a pain. First you tell it to open your application, then you tell it to complete an action, etc. It's just unwieldy.
The video's a bit dark.
Dragon Assistant is hoping to change all of that (Dragon has been the name of Nuance's voice software for years). Available in beta form today, at least for users of Intel-powered Ultrabooks, the software is promising to bring about a lot of voice capability that TV and movies have taught us to expect.
What sets the new Assistant software apart is how it aims to be more than simple dictation - for example, with the Dragon Assistant software, you'll be able to simply say "Search Google for pictures of cats", and a Google Image Search pops up with cat pictures. You can tell it to search Amazon for the latest besteller book, and that Amazon page pops up. It also integrates with some music player software (we couldn't tell what software was actually playing the music during today's demo) and plays whatever you tell it to.
To start the software listening, you first have to say, "Hello, Dragon." To make it stop listening, you say "Go to sleep." The phrases are a little corny, so hopefully Nuance lets you do a bit of customization once the software goes final.
Intel has stated that starting in Q4 of this year, the Nuance Dragon Assistant will be coming to their newest Ultrabooks. It's not yet known whether (aside from this current beta) previous Ultrabook buyers will qualify for the free software. They did let drop that Dell's XPS13 will be first to ship with the program.
Update (17-Sep-12): We've changed the wording of the paragraph in re upcoming Ultrabook voice recognition. Instead of "Intel has sworn that starting in Q4 of this year, the Nuance Dragon Assistant will be pre-installed on every Ultrabook.", the statement was changed to, "Intel has stated that starting in Q4 of this year, the Nuance Dragon Assistant will be coming to their newest Ultrabooks."
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