Monday, 26 November 2012

Talk nerdy to me... using Siri, Dictation, Speak Text, and Google Voice Search

As I was prepping for a recent demo-slam event, I took some time to explore and rediscover some cool voice features on your Mac and iOS device. In this post, I'm going to highlight six cool things with you can do just by talking nerdy to your computer.

System requirements: Mac with Mountain Lion 10.8.x; iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch device with iOS 5; internet

Dictation on iOS devices -  Dictation came along with iOS5 and is available on our new iPad 3s. Whenever the keyboard is visible, the dictation button will be just to the left of the spacebar. Press it and speak and whatever you say will be translated into text. Dictation gets to know your speech (and you'll adjust as well) so that the more you use it, the better it gets at transcribing what you say.

1. Write in Google Docs: using dictation on your iOS device, you can open and edit Google docs. Open the Google doc you wish to edit and press the "edit" button. Then, place the cursor where you'd like to write and press the dictation button. Speak what you'd like to write and it will appear as text in the Google doc. 

Dictation on your Mac - Dictation comes to your Mac running OS 10.8.x "Mountain Lion." By default, it is activated when you press the "fn" key twice. I'm actually writing the rest of this post by speaking directly to the computer. To use dictation on your Mac, you need to put the cursor in the document in the place where you'd like the text to appear. The next, you press the function key twice and speak. Your speech is transcribed as text.

2. Comment on a Google doc: use dictation to speak your comments. In the Google doc, highlight the word(s) that you'd like to refer to in your comment. Select the "Insert" menu and choose "comment." Then press the "fn" key twice and speak your comment. Press enter when you're finished an your comment is transcribed. 

Siri - OK, so Siri, Apple's voice activated personal assistant is not exactly new, but I really don't see people using it around campus. (Maybe it's because she can't understand their accents?) Siri is functional on our iPad 3s we have available for check-out. What you can do:

3. Open applications: ask Siri to "Open Brushes" and the brushes app will open automatically. This is great when working with younger children who would have difficulty navigating and finding the right app or searching using the keyboard.

4. Find answers: when you ask Siri a question that is part of Wolfram Alpha's vast database, (see examples) she'll return the answer to the question and valuable background information related to the topic. 

Speak Text on your Mac - allows you to select text from anywhere on your mac and have it read back to your. See this guide on how to set it up.

5. Give your eyes a rest: reading on screen (or in print for that matter) is not recommended for extended periods of time. Optometrists recommend following the "20-20" rule - take a twenty second break to focus your eyes on something distant every twenty minutes. Open up the web-page text you'd like to have spoken, highlight it, right-click and press "speech" and "start speaking".

6. Proof listen: by using text to speech, you can listen to your written work and sometimes catch mistakes that your visual processing centers would not have caught. 

Speak Text on your iOS device - works similarly to the way it works on the Mac. Enable it following this guide, highlight the text you wish to have spoken tap on it and select "speak".

Voice search in Google - this feature doesn't work from every localization of Google ( for example) so you need to first type in the URL for the non-localized search

Happy searching!

What wonderful ways can you think of to use voice tools on your Mac or iOS device?  I'm thinking a conversation between Siri, Dictation and Speech to Text is in order.

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