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How to Speak to an Android

by Craig Mill

on Mon Dec 15, 2014

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Voice personal assistants are becoming increasingly popular with the rise of Apple’s Siri and Android’s Google Now. 

Siri and Google Now have a lot of features in common, such as location services, e.g. asking for the nearest restaurant, setting up calendar events and reminders, searching for personal contacts, launching apps, playing music and so forth, and both rely on a strong Wi-Fi connection in order to search and collate information. The Android TipBot blog provides a full list of Google voice commands.   

Voice Searches with Siri and Google Now

Siri and Google Now will both respond to questions such as ‘What is the capital of Scotland?’,’ ‘What is the population of Scotland?’ and if the appropriate Settings are activated, both will reply with a combination of text and spoken answers, offering multi-sensory feedback.  

Google Voice Search

Where Siri and Google Now differ is the source they use to compute answers and provide knowledge, i.e. Siri relies on Wolfram Alpha (a computational knowledge engine – as opposed to a ‘search engine’). Google Now gathers information using its famous search engine compiling answers into the Google Card format; combining text and images (as well as voice feedback) laid out in a series of categories (which can be customised), e.g., weather, temperature, places to stay, local restaurants etc. 

Google Card example

A benefit of Siri is that you only need to press and hold the Home button and Siri jumps into action (or by tapping the microphone icon on the on-screen keyboard), assuming you have an iPad 3rd Generation or later. 

However, things aren’t so straight forward on Android as much will depend on the version of Android operating system (OS) (Jelly Bean, KitKat etc) that’s installed on your mobile device. Since there are so many manufacturers that use Google Android's OS the implementation and updates can and do vary significantly, i.e. Samsung, Asus, LG, Sony etc. Even when Google announces a new updated Android OS, some devices may never receive the update. 

On a positive note, the Google Play Store offers a number of apps that can be downloaded for free which can help to overcome some of the issues described above. The Google Now Launcher app integrates into the Android operating system so you can access the search features from anywhere on the device by tapping the Google Now/Search microphone icon. Similarly the voice command, ‘OK Google’ will also stir Google search into life. The Google Chrome web app also offers voice searches from within the URL form field or from within the search box.

Hey Google example

Google Voice Typing 

But both Siri and Google Now go beyond doing web searches and voice commands (or even asking funny or unusual questions such as 'Why did Apple make you?) and can be used for dictating text directly into word processing apps, such as Notes or Pages (for the iOS) or Google Docs, Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft OneNote, Office Suite etc.for Android. 

Google Voice Type with Google Docs

Google Voice Type with Microsoft Onenote

In the case of the iPad, the microphone icon (Siri) is integrated in to the iPad’s default on-screen keyboard. Google Voice Typing, the Android’s version of speech recognition requires a few steps to set up before you can start using it, but once it’s ready to go Google Voice Typing is every bit as impressive (if not more) as Siri.   

Setting up Google Voice Typing 

The process for setting up Google Voice Typing may differ between device and operating system but hopefully the following steps should help. On some devices you may be prompted to set up Google Play Services which is used to update Google apps and Google Play. 

On newer Android devices Google Voice Typing may be set and ready to go as default. 

1.    Tap the Settings icon, 

2.    Under ‘Personal’ tap Language and input,

3.    Tap Google voice typing. Check in settings (to the right hand side) for additional features and options. 

Setting up Google Voice Type

Depending on the keyboard you’re using will determine how Google Voice Typing (indicated with a microphone icon) is accessed. I would recommend you use the default Google Keyboard (the icon is located on the far right hand side of the keyboard) which also features word prediction as standard. 

To correct any errors or wrongly pronounced words you can either delete the word and repeat it or simply go back to keyboard mode and make corrections with the keyboard.

Tags: android, speech, voice typing

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