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Nuance Gives Android Users a Worthy Alternative to Siri

As we wait for Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) to release its rumored Siri competitor this year – codenamed Majel – the voice control crown is still sitting firmly on Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) head.

So what can Android users do while watching iPhone owners bark commands at their digital assistant? Try downloading Dragon Go! by Nuance Communications (Nasdaq: NUAN).

Nuance is the same voice recognition company that powers Siri. And much like Apple’s voice control champion, with Dragon Go!, you just hit the record button and say what you’re looking for.

Dragon Go! will either take you to an application or a website based on your entry. And it supports several useful apps that cover anything from restaurant searches (Yelp) and movie tickets (Fandango), to social networking (Facebook and Twitter) and music (Pandora).

Dragon Go! was already available to iPhone owners, but the application finally popped up on the Android Market this month. And now that I’ve had some time to run it through the paces, it’s clearly the best Android voice control app I’ve used so far.

Here’s a quick rundown of the app’s highlights and how it stacks up against the competition.

What We Like

There’s a good reason Apple went with Nuance for voice recognition. The technology is extremely accurate.

I suppose it could be luck, but the application hasn’t missed a word I’ve spoken yet. It even nails homonyms as long as you provide some context. For instance, if you’re asking about the “weather” in Chicago, or “whether” or not you should fly to Chicago, it understands what you mean and inputs the text accordingly.

Plus, it was able to compute fairly complex commands that are geared toward its supported third-party applications. For example, I was able to say, “Reservation for two at an Italian restaurant tomorrow at 7.” And it pulled up a list of restaurants through OpenTable (Nasdaq: OPEN) with the correct categories filled in accurately.

Of course, Siri is capable of all that and more. But here’s something Dragon Go! offers that Siri doesn’t.

What We Love

Say you want to watch videos about making sushi. Telling Siri, “sushi preparation” is going to pull up a list of sushi restaurants nearby. Not exactly what you’re looking for. Granted, you could help Siri out and specifically mention videos in your request.

But Nuance realizes that there’s a better way.

Instead of trying to guess exactly which application or website the user is looking for, the company decided to provide several options for results with its Dragon Carousel feature.

So saying “sushi preparation” also lists nearby restaurants through Yelp. But a row of tabs at the top of the screen indicates other applications and websites that are relevant to your request. And a quick swipe of the finger can pull up YouTube videos that match your search term.

The feature is perfect for movies, as well. Searching for a movie title pulls up the IMDB app at first. If you decide you want to see the film, you can purchase tickets on Fandango by clicking on a neighboring tab.

Useful, yes. But is it enough to ease the Siri envy felt by many Android users? Probably not.

The Verdict

Dragon Go! certainly goes above and beyond Android’s basic Voice Actions. But no matter how good Nuance’s voice recognition technology and Dragon Carousel are, I still miss the features that push Siri from a simple voice control app to a personal assistant.

Apple engineered Siri with its own personality. So it not only talks back to you almost like a real personal assistant, it even has a bit of attitude. Which makes the application not only useful, but entertaining, too.

Plus, Apple has done a remarkable job integrating Siri with the iPhone’s core applications. Tell Siri to make a lunch appointment on Saturday and she’ll go into your calendar and either schedule it, or tell you if there’s a conflicting appointment.

The only Android core-applications Dragon Go! supports, on the other hand, are the phone, music, maps, YouTube and search.

Tell it to make a doctor’s appointment on Friday, and it comes up with a Google search for that phrase, with no option to place the event in your calendar.

So hopefully Dragon Go! will eventually work seamlessly with more core Android apps. Personally, I’d like to see Nuance find a way to integrate Dragon Go! with any application downloaded to the device.

That would easily make it the voice app to beat – with or without its own personality.

Either way, the addition of Dragon Go! to the Android Market underscores the fact that Nuance is perfectly positioned to cash in as voice controlled interfaces gain more traction in 2012 and beyond.

Good investing,

Justin Fritz

Justin Fritz

, Executive Editor

View More By Justin Fritz