Does it Work?: Vlingo Speech-to-Text iPhone App

The Dragon Dictation voice recognition app opened up a new world to iPhone users, one without typing on those tiny touch-screen keys. It was then followed up with Dragon Search, and will probably have several more apps on the way. But the Dragon apps aren’t always too reliable, and wouldn’t it be better to have all of the speech recognition features together in one app? Enter: the new Vlingo speech recognition app that claims to let you voice dial, text message, e-mail, search maps, and even update your Facebook or Twitter with a few quick speaking commands.

In this installment of Does it Work?, we take Vlingo for a spin to see how accurate this voice recognition app can be when transcribing speech to text.

Think Vlingo will work? Check out our assessment after the jump.

How it Works:

Vlingo has six main features under its voice recognition umbrella: email, SMS, maps, social update, web search, and voice dial. With specific command words for each feature, you simply press the “Press & Speak” button on the main page, and Vlingo will listen and interpret your command.

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When you first use the app, Vlingo provides a very detailed step-by-step instructional guide to using each feature, and also lets you access an info menu anytime after that for reference by just touching anywhere on the main page.

The app itself is free, as are four of the features, but to actually send e-mails and text messages you compose in the app, you have to upgrade. E-mail and text messaging each cost $6.99, but you save a few bucks by upgrading both for just $9.99.


The Test(s):

E-mail

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To compose an e-mail, you tap the “Press & Speak” button, then say the following command: “E-mail [Contact Name], Subject [What you want the subject of your e-mail to say], Message [The content of your email].” On the first try, Vlingo composed my e-mail in less than eight seconds, correctly identified my contact, and successfully transcribed my subject and message, with the exception of one word: “app.” And after about four more tries with different contacts from my iPhone, I got the same results, with Vlingo confusing “app” with “at.” It seems to be more of a clear speech issue, though I must say I was trying my darndest to enunciate the consonants here.

SMS

For sending text messages, the command is: “Text [Contact], Message [Content of message].” I had the same experience as with sending an e-mail, with incredibly speedy results, but problems with that darn “app” word. Also, when you try to use the e-mail or texting function without upgrading, Vlingo pleasantly reminds you immediately after transcribing your command that you have to upgrade in order to send e-mails or SMS. If you decline, the message is erased and you’re back at the home screen.

Maps

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Ah, the free stuff. With Maps, you can tell Vlingo to find a certain location with an address, or you can ask it to find a selection of places in an area (i.e. hair salons in San Diego). Tell Vlingo: “Find [Address]” or “Find [Specific Places] in [City].” My results were again dead-on, with the correct recognition of the address, which I was asked to verify on the next screen, and then with the map I was redirected to in the iPhone’s native Maps application.

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For finding multiple locations based off of your request, you’re directed to a map with pins on places that match your request. Again, a success.

Social Update

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One of the coolest features is this one, which lets you update your Facebook status, Twitter feed, or both by talking to Vlingo. Use the following commands: “Facebook update [Update],” “Twitter update [Update],” or “Social update [Update]” (for both). Accurate, yet again, but the even more convenient thing? You don’t need to set up and save your login information for either site before you use this feature. Just say your commands, get your transcription, then go in and enter your login info. (It’s saved thereafter.)

My statuses on both sites were updated in due time after sending the updates, just like they would be using any other app or program.

Web Search

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If you ever forget to use a command while in Vlingo, the app will automatically consider it a web search, which can cut back on some steps when you actually are using a web search. But you can also get more specific by commanding the app to “Wikipedia [Subject],” as well as with Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and practically any web search services. All of my attempts with fairly easy subjects turned up as expected, but I ran into some trouble asking the app to “Flickr Lady Gaga.” I’m blaming Lady Gaga on this one, as I had her music playing the background, and, well, her name does sound a little funny.

Voice Dial

Last but not least, you can also make voice dial commands in Vlingo. Just say, “Call [Contact]” or “Dial [Contact] on her [Mobile/Home/Work].” The app takes a few quick seconds to find your contact on your iPhone, then you can tap the contact that results to be redirected to your phone to automatically make the call.


Conclusion:

After using this app for more than a week, I’ve only had a few hiccups with interpreting certain words that always seem to get tripped up by specific consonants. I suspect it has something to do with my personal speech patterns, so it looks like Vlingo really gets the job done here with transcribing text into specific features, as well as interpreting and completing commands.

I also used several different modes of background noise while testing each feature. With music playing at a moderate level from my MacBook, I didn’t experience any huge issues, surprisingly–except for when certain artists were playing, specifically Lady Gaga. Not kidding, there. I also tested the app out while walking on a busy downtown Chicago sidewalk and with lots of traffic and sirens passing by. These would cause Vlingo to “think” a little longer to process my request, but it was only incorrect a few times out of about a dozen.

This is, hands down, the best voice recognition app available now for the iPhone. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Vlingo was a big hit with the Blackberry. But it’s a welcomed addition to the underwhelming batch of these apps available now to the iPhone, and they all have plenty of catching up to do. I’d really like to see Vlingo expand the features to include more social networks, or even work with the iPhone to command different plays for music and playlists. Anything’s possible with this one.

The final verdict? It works! Download it.

Vlingo
Price: FREE


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Comments

  1. Hawk says

    Or you can get the free app Dragon Dictation and use a few extra clicks to do the same thing.
    This app is a bit more resourceful but I am not convinced, even with the review. I guess I need to see it in action in an everyday environment with noise and such.

  2. Hondamaker says

    The only reason I would use this or any app like it is while driving. The app with the less ‘clicks’ wins.

  3. Hawk says

    I just realized I already HAVE this app. Trying to remember why I took it off the phone…
    I’ll give it another shot. If it can take a dictated text while driving, then this app would be a win. If not… Off it goes

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