Hands-free, Eyes-free – A New Way for Interacting with Mobile
Nuance announced yesterday that they have launched their new version of Dragon Mobile Assistant for Android. For users with difficulty using their hands to interact with touch screens – whether that is because their hands are busy doing something else like driving or carrying groceries or because they have a mobility impairment, this new app will allow users to ask questions as they would of SIRI on iOS (they can even launch the assistant without having to press a button), and they can also use speech to text and text to speech commands to perform some common functions.
Users with mobility impairments have long used Dragon Naturally Speaking on the desktop to control the computer through speech but there was not a good equivalent for mobile. Sure, there is SIRI on iPhones and iPads and a few personal assistants apps but they are limited to speech commands and do not allow you to control the device and perform functions within an application. Dragon Mobile Assistant is a step in the right direction that allows you to control some applications, such as dialing, texting, launching your music, sending and responding to emails, checking the weather, and more.
Dragon Mobile Assistant is compatible with all devices running Android OS 2.3.3 (Gingerbread) and higher. After installing the application, you will be prompted to complete several setup screens for permissions. For users with mobility impairments, you will need to turn on “background wakeup” in the application settings. Then, to start Dragon, simply say "Hello Dragon".
Dragon Mobile Assistant Features & Commands
- Automatically switches to hands-free/eyes-free mode when Dragon Mobile Assistant senses you are in a moving vehicle.
- Customize the wake-up word so Dragon will respond when these words are spoken.
- Read aloud and respond to your Facebook status updates, messages, incoming calls, alerts and upcoming appointments
- Open and control applications using speech - just tell it what you want using voice commands.
- Set an alarm - “Set my alarm for 7 AM tomorrow”
- Dial a phone number – “Call Steve on his mobile”
- Send a text message - "Tell Steve I will be 30 minutes late."
- Create and respond to emails using voice dictation - “Email Steve, Subject: Running late, will be home in 30 min”
- Share your location or find friends – Dragon will send a text with a link to your location on a map or will show you on a map where your friends are. Use the command, “Tell Steve where I am”
- Find addresses and points on a map - “What’s the best way to Sudbury Massachusetts”
- Check the weather – “What is the weather forecast today?”
- Open an application – “Open calculator”
- Play music – “Play Aerosmith”
- And more!!
Dragon Mobile Assistant for Android works well as an assistant for basic tasks, and is more powerful than SIRI for interacting with the device, but it is limited to the functions that are included within the Dragon application. If it launches another application, you can become stuck and have to use touch. For example, suppose I want to send an email home. I can tell it to start an email, have it search my contacts for “Steve” and select the best match (“one”, “two”, etc.) and then compose the email text. It works well and will then prompt for confirmation to send. However, if you have more than one email application on the device, Android will prompt you to select one to complete the action. This requires touch. You can overcome this if you only have one application or set the default. This, and other setup tasks require touch, so mobility impaired users will likely want assistance.
When set up properly, you can start Dragon by a voice command, which is a great feature. Dragon accomplishes many of its features by providing its own interface but it does not provide many of the features of the full desktop version. For example,
“Hello Dragon” (starts the application with an audible alert)
“What is the weather forecast?”
Dragon shows the weather forecast in its own browser but I was unable to scroll down the page. If your action leads to an Android prompt dialog, you will need touch to interact with it.
Some features are clearly “coming soon.” For example, after setting an alarm and trying to edit it with voice, Dragon responds with “I will be able to change alarms in the future.”
In short, Dragon Mobile Assistant is an excellent step in the right direction and exciting for people with mobility impairments. I look forward to seeing new versions where I expect that user feedback will drive refinement of features and interaction, such as including features and commands that you can do on Dragon Naturally Speaking for the desktop.