When listing to the radio or a podcast, while driving to work, I don’t think I imagine how the person I’m listing to, looks like. Still, if later, I happen to see them for the first time, in a picture or video, I often find myself surprised.
A verbally responding mobile application has many obvious advantages. For instance, users don’t have to decipher tiny fonts on small displays, in fact, they don’t have to look at the display at all. Just like colors and typography contribute considerably to the look and feel of an application, so does the voice quality for a voice enabled mobile application.
There are at least three different approaches to synthesize text.
There might be a Text-To-Speech module built into the OS, or a separately installed Text-o-Speech engines can plug-in to the OS’s Text-To-Speech module.
Secondly, instead of requiring a separate install, a synthesizer and voices can be packaged and shipped with the application.
Lastly, a web-service can be used, to synthesize text. The advantage of this, would be a more predictable and consistent voice quality, comparatively independent from the hardware and operation system used on the mobile client.
ETrade provides a great mobile app experience on iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry. I think it’s almost expected that the feature-set provided by the dedicated native mobile applications are not quite the same. The Windows version and especially the one for Blackberry fall far behind what ETrade has to offer on Android and iOS.
For instance, in April 2012, Speech Recognition was first added to their iPhone (not iPad) mobile application and later to the Android app as well; allowing the user to request stock quotes, options chains, company information, or to launch the stock order, just by using voice.
“Investors are becoming more accustomed to interacting with voice-enabled technology, and we’re proud to be one of the first to offer this innovative feature to our mobile users,” said Michael Curcio, President, ETRADE Securities. “By integrating voice technology, ETRADE provides a mobile experience unlike any other – creating a state-of-the-art and convenient approach to navigation.”
ETrade uses speech recognition and speech synthesis software provided by Nuance Communications, Inc. The application is feature-packed, comes as an 11 MB download, and is not, what you would call a thin client. Only a very few of those features however, are accessible through Voice Commands.
I recently had the chance to attend a CommNexus event in San Diego, titled “PhoneGap vs. Titanium: What Is the Best Tool to Build an HTML5 Mobile App?”
Two panelists and a moderator were battling it out, comparing the two frameworks, mentioned benefits, and also demo-ed the mobile applications they had built.
“Your father’s light saber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times… before the Empire.”
While the Android 4.0 SDK comes with a complete set of javadocs, the source code of the SDK is missing in the SDK distribution. This is very unfortunate, since you cannot easily debug into SDK methods (at least not without running into de-compiled code) nor can you see how things actually work.
Eclipse - Source Not Found
However, there is a quick fix to that problem. I downloaded the complete Android source including the Linux, drivers, libs, etc., like explained here: http://source.android.com/source/download.html and ran small Java program on the source tree. I used to this with a simple bash script but over the last couple of Android Releases, the java source locations got a little more diverse and I started missing a couple files. So instead, this Java program walks the source tree and looks for java source files. All those will then be copied into a new location, considering their package name. Finally, the jar tool gets called to put all the source into a single bundle for easier handling.