Intel is working with Nuance on its own voice assistant technology for Ultrabooks. Dubbed Dragon Assistant, the new software will come preloaded on select Ultrabooks in 2013 and will allow users to conduct web searches, play music, check social networks, launch apps and much more just by speaking to their PCs.
Here are the features of the Dragon Assistant beta version:
No Headsets or Internet Connection Needed
Because Intel requires Dragon Assistant-ready Ultrabooks to have dual-array microphones , there’s no need to attach a bulky headset. Just talk directly to your PC and it talks back to you. The speech recognition dictionary is stored locally, not in the cloud. So, unlike Siri, which has to ping Apple’s servers to turn your speech into text every time you talk, Dragon Assistant can interpret your speech quickly, even if you’re not online.
User Interface and Activation
You can activate Dragon Assistant either by hitting the Ctrl key twice or by saying Hello Dragon. The latter method, of course, requires Dragon to keep your microphone on all the time.
Once you’ve activated the program, it shows a tiny widget hovering on top of the left side of the screen. The basic widget just shows whatever Dragon is “saying” to you in text format and a sound level indicator that shows how well it is reading your voice. However, as you engage certain actions, a contextual display area appears below the tiny dialog indicator. So, if you say “Show Twitter” or “Show Facebook” it will show the four most recent updates on your feed with a scroll bar to see more.
If you have a scroll bar in the box, you can scroll up and down by saying “scroll down” or “scroll up.” To get a list of valid voice commands either for a particular function (ex: music) or for the app as a whole, you can simply ask “What can I say?” and a list of valid commands appears.
Searching the Web
One of Dragon Assistant’s most useful features is its ability to search using any of a half-dozen different search engines and shopping or media services. You can search Google, Bing, Yahoo, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon and eBay by simply saying “Search [Engine] for [Query].”
Music and Video Playback
One major feature of Dragon Assist is its ability to play music from your library on command. As soon as you put song files in Windows’ music library, Dragon knows about them and lets you call them by name. So, if you say “Love Time” and there’s a song named “Love,” Dragon will start playing it. If you want the music to stop at any time, you can simply tell Dragon to “pause.” It can also play music by genre.
When it launches, Dragon Assistant will let you dictate text into any Windows application you want. However, the beta version only works with certain programs.
Dragon can also launch applications for you if you just say “Open [Name of App].”
Dragon provides a fairly detailed settings panel that lets you control a number of options in Dragon Assistant. Using the panel, you can set whether or not Dragon wakes on voice or Ctrl button only, configure Dragon to work with your calendar, POP email, Twitter and Facebook accounts and even set periodic voice updates that proactively tell you that you’ve gotten new messages.
Windows 8 UI Support
Since Windows 8 does not have the proper voice control APIs available yet, Dragon Assistant runs as a desktop app. It cannot control Windows 8 UI style apps. Dragon continues to run in the background so you can give it voice commands and get its response only when you’re in desktop mode.