The next iteration of Apple’s iOS platform for its iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads went out for developers to beta test this weekend. It revealed that speech recognition software, rumored to be a part of the operating system, is definitely contained within it.
Mashable has the story, pointing to images of iOS 5 gathered by 9to5Mac, which shows voice features as part of the interface, although they aren’t functional just yet. The images specifically point out a microphone button that’s placed beside the space bar on the iOS keyboard, used throughout the app, which suggests you’ll be able to talk at your iPhone or iPod Touch rather than type just about all the time. That could be very cool (as well as very annoying when other people do it, but whatever). Apparently, the Nuance voice recognition software isn’t included in the iPad version of iOS 5 yet, but there’s still time for it to be built in before the operating system ships in September.
Nuance, the company reportedly behind the iOS speech tech integrations, is also the company behind the Dragon speech recognition line of software. Apple seems to be holding out about the speech recognition features and even trying to hide them, which suggests, as Mashable points out, that negotiations between Apple and Nuance probably aren’t finalized yet.
Mashable says that while it spoke with execs from Nuance not long ago, the company is being pretty tight-lipped about the features. It was strongly hinted that negotiations are ongoing, however. Apple acquired a speech recognition app called Siri last year, but the tech behind that app is owned by Nuance, hence the ongoing negotiations.
Still, it doesn’t seem like negotiating for the speech recognition capabilities Nuance creates will stall iOS 5 or cause the features to get tossed if things don’t go Apple’s way, based on the fact that such functions (or at least the buttons for them) are already showing up in the beta build of the software. Meanwhile, the implications of speech-to-text capabilities for iOS are kind of huge – like allowing users to speak their text messages rather than type them while driving, for example. That would be a handy function, and one that Android users have been enjoying for a while now.
Speech-to-text capabilities worked deeply into iOS are going to make a lot of apps obsolete, though. Lots of its new features may take the place of apps that have already been doing those jobs. But the change will definitely have a big effect on the way the operating system works: developers might be sad, but users will probably be looking at a great new iOS experience.
Check out an Android user's perspective on these new features.