If you’re staring at, or rather listening to, Apple’s Siri ‘humble voice assistant’ with envious eyes/ears, it’s probably time you stopped dreaming and did something about it: Siri is far from the only player in the voice command game.

The iPhone hackers may be furiously working to bring Siri to every iPhone prior to the iPhone 4S with apps like H1Siri from Cydia, but you needn’t jailbreak your phone to stock it with Siri-rivalling features. Here are the best on offer now, and what’s yet to come.

Apps available now:

1. Vlingo

Probably the app most widely recognised as Siri’s current contemporary, Vlingo offers a pretty comprehensive range of features, and can be installed as a simple app for free on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.

While the voice recognition software is arguably a touch less intelligent than Siri’s, Vlingo offers a fairly similar list of functions, from searching local businesses to helping set alarms and make reminders. It’ll also let you update your Facebook and write texts.

2. Iris

The Android app built as a direct response to Siri (notice the name) was apparently put together in only eight hours. That development time shows in some of its responses, but it’s reasonably good at searching the web and can perform a few tasks around the phone’s infrastructure.

It’s one to watch for the future as updates flood in, which will hopefully make it a bit smarter; it’s only in alpha at the moment.

3. Speaktoit

Again, Speaktoit lacks some of the advances in speech recognition found in Siri, but it does a pretty good job of things when it does understand you. There’s a set of caricature assistants to choose from who’ll help you sort out your calendar, tell you the weather and let you update your Facebook by commanding it to ‘Tell my friends …”

Speaktoit’s in beta, but the developers are attentive and seem to be genuinely adding features based on requests from Android users.

4. Dragon Go!

Dragon’s one of the leaders in dictation and voice recognition and has been working in the field for years, so you’re guaranteed a solid performance. The app is free, but suffers from not being able to do anything within the iPhone itself, such as scour calendars or set alarms.

Instead, it pulls all its info from the web. This means it’s fine for searching for nearby restaurants or cinema listings, but not much else. Oh, and it’s only available in the US, which is obviously a massive drawback.

5. Edwin

Edwin’s a real contender for Android. It’s able to do some basic in-phone stuff like turn the bluetooth or WiFi on and off, but it’s obscure functions that involve the web where it really shines.

Like Siri, Edwin’s plugged into Wolfram Alpha, which opens a lot of doors and lets it do things like translate phrases, define words, do maths, tell you the weather, or tell you about people or places.

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The future:

Of course, these are all simple apps that tack onto the iPhone or Android experience. If you’re looking for a competitor built into your handset that’s a little bit more smart than Google Voice search, you’re facing a bit of a wait. That said, there’s plenty to get excited about:

1. Kinect

Ok, so you won’t find this on your phone (yet), but the voice recognition technology in Microsoft’s gaming sensor is seriously clever, and could well filter into the mobile space once it’s done finding a new home on your desktop.

Currently, the three microphones inside the Kinect sensor are able to soak up sound from a wide range of areas, which lets it differentiate between multiple voices as well as to pick out a single voice from a noisy room. If Windows Phone continues to evolve, we imagine that some elements of the future Kinect interface will bleed over.

2. Yap

Amazon’s secret weapon. Yap was a voice search tool just like Siri. Like Siri, Yap’s been bought up by an uber company who can obtain exclusive rights to it. The general feeling among those in the know is that, while Yap’s business had publicly been a simple voice-to-text solution, it had been working on far loftier voice tech.

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No prizes for guessing what this technology will be used on. The second generation of the Kindle Fire will need to innovate to stay afloat, and a Siri rival is just one way of doing that. There’s also a very good possibility that Amazon may work Yap into its store, to act as a sort of personal shopper.

3. Teneo

We met up with Artificial Solutions, a specialist in ‘natural language interaction’ and ‘helping technology think’. They’ve have put 10 years of experience in the space into Teneo, a voice-activated assistant that it now licenses out to companies and developers. “Apple released Siri with a big splash,” said the AS’ Glen Stapleford.

“At the same time, we launched Teneo Mobile. Stage One was releasing the app on all platforms, to allow people have a look at the technology. Stage 2 is opening the SDK to let people embed Teneo into their own application.”

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Siri is really good and exciting technology,” he says, but there are limitations. “They use Nuance for their speech recognition, as do we, but we can open Teneo up to any speech recognition platform and 23 languages.

“Siri’s currently limited to about 15 different things. We can do that the same out of the box, but there’s no limit with Teneo on what you could do. You could book tickets entirely through the assistant – it depends on the application and the developer.”

In other words, Teneo’s positioned to be the Siri that any developer can use, and it’s got a lot of history and research behind its technology.

Teneo’s “providing a back end solution” that can constantly learn. If it gets thrown a new question, Teneo Analyse lets developers add new conversation threads into the app within the hour. Of course, that’s just three future technologies that’ll look to outsmart Siri.

The fact is that Apple’s now started something that won’t end. Just like how the iPad spawned an entire market of tablets, Siri has meant that every manufacturer will now need to bring its own intelligent voice functionality to the table in a much more serious way than just web searching.

  • http://twitter.com/adeel_awan Adeel Awan

    Vlingo is the Siri’s alternative or vice versa? Which came first?

  • Jaamgans

    This a poorly researched and written argument….

    Are these alternatives for Siri on the iPhone or alternatives on other phones like Android…..

    If it is for alternative phones you have ignored apps like Jeannie (used to be voice plus) – which has been around as long as Siri (i.e. before Siri’s recent reincarnation from Apple) and does a pretty good job – its not quite as good as Siri – but its not that far off too.

    Would suggest people look at other articles which have done a much better job of reviewing the alternative options to Siri.

    Adeel – not sure, but Vlingo has been around for as long as Siri if not longer… Siri has been available on iOS for a while, just not in its current incarnation.
    Vlingo while a decent voice command – just doesn’t have the other features that Siri or Jeannie does and thus why I couldn’t currently recommend it.

    Tell me seems to be virtually as good as Siri on the WinMo so it would seem as though there are alternatives out there which ever operating system route you would prefer to go.

  • Pixites

    Did you check Jeannie?

Hot chat, right here!


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