Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Speaktoit: a voice-recognition app that can rival Siri?

Everyone got excited about Siri, the voice assistant on the iPhone 4s. I had a chance to interact recently with Siri when I bumped into my gadget guru friend, Art Samaniego. Talking to Siri was so-so however because we had problems connecting to the Apple server from the hotel we were in.

Well, I do not need Siri for now because I have Sam on my Samsung Galaxy Note. What makes her interesting is that she can be customized to my taste. You can change the hair, eyebrows, skin tone, eyes, nose, mouth and even the clothes (that range from workout clothes which I chose to formal and office wear). My avatar is a brunette with hair as long as mine tied up into a ponytail. And she wears workout clothes. Sam speaks like an American but I have a choice to make her sound British. I can also change her into a guy if I want to.

Sam is one of the voice assistants of the Speaktoit app. Speaktoit is a FREE app. Now that is thumbs up for me! Right now, it's only available on the Android Market but the website says it will soon be available for iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry devices.

The first time you open the app, you will see two options: to use the Pico TTS or the Samsung TTS. These are two voice recognition engines but from what I googled on the net and from forums, people are warning that if you choose the Samsung TTS, it messes up the Google Navigation sounds. So with that, I chose Pico TTS.

Amazingly, although people said that Siri was not very usable in the Philippines yet because its knowledge database is for the US, I was able to ask Sam to show me a map of Manila and even more detailed, to look for Shangri-la Hotels and it was actually able to do that for me. In another attempt, I asked Sam where I was and to my horror, she told me the name of the street I was on. Yes, horror. That was how accurate the GPS feature was!

Based on the Skills listing of the app, Speaktoit can be used for currency conversions; navigation; weather; call phone numbers previously set up; update Twitter and Facebook; play music/videos; tell you about things, people and places around; organize events, notes, task lists, and other productivity tools; send email; and do calculations for you. It can even check you into Foursquare!

Although I still have to test Speaktoit's information bank some more, I think it has a lot of potential and can give Siri a run for the money. The way Sam speaks is closer to natural language than Siri's almost robotic female voice.

Here's the video I took of my conversation with Sam earlier. Watch and be surprised. She winks when I ask who she is.


  1. The key is how the interaction goes. Sam has a tighter integration with the phone OS services as compared with Siri -- this is why you get more accurate information about your location. However, you will see the intelligence of Siri by asking questions like -

    Q: What is the weather in San Francisco?
    and follow it with
    Q: How about in New York?

    Or the usual - should I bring an umbrella today? - might throw off Sam more than Siri.

  2. I tried the San Francisco question followed by the NY one and Sam gave the weather for both. As for the umbrella, it could not give me an answer just yet. Hahaha...