Apple Announce Voice Speech Recognition Built Into OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion called Dictation

This week (11th to 15th June, 2012) Apple are holding their yearly World Wide Developers Conference (aka WWDC) at Moscone West in San Francisco, California. I am always fascinated by this event, it teases so much info yet at the same time manages to conceal from the world the intricate detail in those teases.

Opening WWDC 2012 was Apple’s CEO Tim Cook who announced a whole raft of new hardware and software to get any Apple user just a little excited. The keynote is the only event at WWDC where journalists can attend, the rest of the week is dedicated to the developers where they get the inside scoop on Apples plans for their iOS and Mac OS X operating systems. Attendance is governed by the developers signing a Non Disclosure Agreement or NDA – leaving them in what I am sure is a bursting to tell someone quandary. Anyway, onto the subject of this post Dictation.

During the opening keynote Apple announced that a new version of the Mac operating system OS X would be available in July 2012 taking it to version 10.8 and continuing the feline tradition called Mountain Lion. Mountain Lion comes jam packed with new goodies and features but the one that caught my eye was Dictation.

It fell to Apple’s Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi to run through the new features of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Here is what he had to say about Dictation:

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“Next up … Dictation. We’re bringing dictation to the Mac. {applause} So, everywhere on your Mac where you can type, you can now talk and the Mac will do the typing for you. Because it’s built into the system it works everywhere. You can talk into your Facebook webpage if you want, or even in third party applications like Microsoft Word. That’s Dictation. It’s that simple. ”

[Click here to watch the full WWDC 2012 keynote. Craig’s mention of Dictation starts at 52mins 33seconds into the keynote. Audio and text of Craig’s above is Copyright Apple Inc.]

Borrowing it’s icon design from Siri, those of you with the iPhone 4S will be familiar with this, Dictation on your Mac sees Apple start to fully embrace voice recognition on both their key operating systems, iOS with Siri (updated in iOS 6) and OS X. Full details on Dictation are not yet available but there is a brief overview on Apple’s Mountain Lion website and it is described as:

Dictation. Talking is the new typing.

Now you can talk anywhere you can type. Dictation converts your words into text. Dictation uses the built-in microphone on your Mac, so there’s no need to set anything up — just start speaking instead of typing. When you say “comma” or “exclamation mark”, Dictation punctuates for you. The more you use Dictation, the smarter it gets. It learns voice characteristics. And it recognises people from your contacts so it enters names accurately. Dictation supports English (US, UK and Australia), French, German and Japanese.

Points of interest for me are:

  1. No special noise cancelling mic required. From past experience using in-built non noise cancelling microphones on your Mac, either with Dragon Dictate or Dragon Express {app store link}, tends to give poor results (this is the reason for so many poor reviews for Dragon Express in the Mac app store).
  2. The rumoured link with Nuance, although not confirmed anywhere that I have seen, looks to have been a good rumour. Dictation in OS X “learns voice characteristics” the same as voice profiles in the full blown Dragon Dictate for Mac.
  3. Another firm nod to Nuance are the languages supported, the various English languages (UK, US and Aussie) along with French, German and Japanese are also supported by Nuance in their Dragon products on both Mac and Windows.
  4. No control over your Mac, you can’t start apps, browse the web and send emails using just your voice. To start with just voice recognition anywhere that you can type. I am sure in future iterations we will see Dictation evolve into something very similar to Dragon Dictate.

We have known voice recognition has been on the cards for Apple for some time. There were rampant rumours for a while that Apple had bought Nuance, the main player in speech recognition on both Windows and Mac. With the launch of Siri this bought voice recognition literally into everyones face. If you didn’t know that you could talk to a device and have it understand you, Siri changed that.

On a side note. Rumours continue to point to an Apple TV, even though no announcement at WWDC, it does make sense that a voice controlled TV must be on the cards. Take a look at that remote control for your TV, DVD and Apple TV. Remote controls are a very old technology and are screaming out for re-invetion, something that could and should be replaced by voice commands.

The future is voice.

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