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Nuance Mobile: What you say is what you get

Ever get tired of texting friends or typing out emails to work colleagues using miniscule keypads and slow interfaces? Well, with Nuance what you say is what you get

A while ago, Crave reported on a speech-to-text mobile application made by Nuance, the same company that produces the Dragon Dictate software for PCs. At the time, Nuance had just posted a video on YouTube featuring the world's texting champion versus a man talking into a phone using the Nuance Mobile software -- Nuance won hands down.

We weren't entirely convinced at the time that any software was capable of converting speech-to-text so quickly and accurately. Fortunately, while at 3GSM in Barcelona, we bumped into Sean Brown, product manager of mobile applications for Nuance, who is the man on the video racing the world text champ. We immediately took the opportunity to challenge him to a race using our trusty mobile phone.

For the first challenge, we picked sentences out of a box and then tapped them out while Sean spoke into his phone, a Palm Treo. Then we used an iPod nano to find a song while Sean had to find it on his Treo by saying the track name. Finally, we had to find something on Google using our keypads, while Sean had to say the search term into his Treo, which accordingly appeared in the search box.

Let's put it this way: he slam-dunked our sorry little mobile phone skills and did every task in a matter of seconds. Of course, some of us were still sceptical, so we asked him to say a random phrase that we came up with. Impressively, it worked -- it wasn't spot-on but the text was understandable.

But it gets better. He then said "correction", and the word that was misunderstood by the software was highlighted. One tap on that word using his phone's touchscreen and alternative words popped up, including the word he was originally trying to say. He then tapped on the correct word and the phrase was fixed.

This isn't a perfect system -- he needed to train it over time to understand certain words -- but overall it works well enough for the odd text. Compared to what was on offer five years ago, it's cool to see this software on mobile phones, and working. Nuance Mobile uses an application that you install on your phone and then it contacts a server, so you will incur data charges to use it, but if they're not too high we think it's worth it.

Unfortunately, right now there's only a Nuance server in the US so the service isn't available in Europe. Nuance, however, seems confident that a UK network will use it at some point soon, which will provide its customers with the service for a monthly charge. Nuance Mobile currently works on a variety of mobile operating systems, including Symbian. We hope to see it here soon. -AL