Dictionary.com Unveils Voice App for Apple Watch

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Dictionary.com has added functionality to its mobile app to support the Apple Watch. Dictionary.com provides access to millions of English definitions, synonyms, pronunciations, and example sentences, which can now be accessed right from a user's wrist with voice or a tap of the device.

The company's mobile apps, which support both Apple's iOS and Google's Android platforms, already offer a voice interface, but speech technologies became critical for the Apple Watch.

"When people are on our Web site, text is primarily the main way they search for definitions," says Kenny Chen, director of mobile at Dictionary.com.

Because of the Apple Watch's small display screen, though, "voice is really the only way to access our app on it," he says.

"We recognized early on that text input would not be a big hit on these devices," Chen adds. "Voice is going to be the primary mode of input for these devices."

For the voice interface, the Apple Watch app relies on the Siri personal assistant technology already incorporated into the Apple Watch and iPhone. To access it, the user just says the word he wants to know about and Siri pulls up any relevant definitions, synonyms, pronunciations, etymologies, citations, photos, and other details from Dictionary.com's database of more than 2 million words.

"This also helps with words that the user may not know how to spell," Chen says.

The Apple Watch app does not yet have speech output capabilities because Apple has not opened up that part of its watch application programming interface to developers yet, but when it does Chen expects to take advantage of it. In the meantime, users can pair the app with their iPhones and use the Siri speech output function on those devices.

Other unique features of the Dictionary.com Apple Watch app include the following:

  • Word of the Day - One of Dictionary.com's most popular features, Word of the Day showcases the definition of a single word, with its pronunciation, etymology, and citations. Dictionary.com's Glance provides an on-demand view of the Word of the Day with a simple swipe from the watch face.
  • Word of the Day Images – Tapping on Word of the Day from the home screen pulls up a scrolling view of the last seven days; tapping on the image takes the user to the detail screen with additional definitions.
  • Push Notifications – The Word of the Day arrives with a gentle buzz and expands to a detailed view when the user lifts the watch.
  • Recents/Favorites – Keep track of recent word searches and view favorites synced from an iPhone.
  • Handoff to iPhone – App activity can be launched from the iPhone for more information on the word the user was last viewing from the watch.

"The Apple Watch enabled us to develop new ways to bring words to life for people," said Michele Turner, CEO of Dictionary.com, in a statement. "We've added functionality to our app to take advantage of the immediacy of the watch, letting people speak or tap to get a definition or synonym, or quickly Glance to learn our Word of the Day."

The Apple Watch app does not require the user to do anything special or download additional software. It comes bundled with the existing iPhone app.

The handoff to Siri was an easy fit considering that Dictionary.com had already worked with Nuance Communications, which provides Siri's voice technology. "We worked with Nuance when we first integrated voice search into our apps" about five years ago, Chen says.

"We pride ourselves [on being] early adopters of new technology," he adds.

Dictionary.com is currently in conversations with Google for a dedicated app that will work with the Android Wear smartwatch, and similar talks are in the early stages with Microsoft to support its mobile platform and devices.

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