Nuance Unveils Voice Control 2.0

Nuance Communications today unveiled Nuance Voice Control 2.0 (NVC2), the Massachusetts-based company’s latest mobile speech platform.

NVC2 is customizable and, according to Nuance, allows operators and handset original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to speech-enable any feature, application, or network service on any mobile device brought to market with the company’s VSuite integrated into it.

The platform has a number of capabilities. Among them are:

  • voice-activated dialing;
  • free form voice search throughout the phone and mobile Web;
  • navigation; and
  • games.

The release of NVC2 is the result of close collaboration between Nuance and its operator and OEM partners. It represents an effort to address a number of fundamental concerns and desires for embedded, on-device speech and was designed from the ground up to meet those concerns.

“The operators basically told us three things,” says Michael Thompson, senior vice president and general manager of Nuance Mobile.

“One, you need to reach millions of mobile users. Mobile search has to reach the masses.  Two, we want to take an approach that’s not just a ‘one-point’ application…we want to voice-enable the entire device, the entire user experience, or at least have the flexibility to voice-enable all the parts that we want to…Three, we need to be on feature phones. Feature phones dominate the world market in terms of volumes and shipments, and all of these voice services need to be available as feature phones.”

According to Thompson, it is this last concern on the part of operators and OEMs that was central to the NVC2 project. To make the software compatible with almost any phone, everything from smartphones to lowly feature phones, Nuance made sure to include a Samsung feature phone from 2006 in its lineup of design phones.

“It was a very low-end phone,” Thompson says. “That was our fundamental design phone, number one. If we could get everything to work on that, it would be incredibly powerful.”

He asserts that these lower-end phones, models that are often given away for free, can do voice-enabled Web search, message dictation, navigation, and “all the potential high-value solutions that operators want to get to market.”

In constructing the new release, Nuance had to be careful to put together something that could rapidly adjust to the growing number of features that are coming embedded in phones, even features that haven’t yet seen the light of day.

“Building mobile phones is a very hard business," he says. "If you just look at the rapid transformation of the mobile handset market in the last 18 months alone—touch screen boom! jumped onto the market—anything that disrupts the process, anything that tinkers, slows things down, drives costs up, and slows innovation will not work.”

To further that end, NVC2 was built to be entirely open-ended with a full command of any given phone’s features. Underlying the recognition technology is Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10. Theoretically, once properly tagged, almost anything on a phone could be activated by voice.

Perhaps most important for Nuance, the collaborative process with the OEMs means that the company has had a hand in the very design of some phones. Some of these feature one-touch dedicated buttons that activate speech capabilities. On Samsung models, Thompson describes the button as having a small head with a speech balloon on the side or as a prominent feature on the first menu of a touchscreen model.

With only 25 percent of all mobile phones users worldwide utilizing the on-board speech—a number that Nuance will argue is both significant and growing—it’s important to expand that demand if the company truly wants to “reach the masses” with its product. A dedicated button certainly might up those numbers, especially if Thompson is right about the usefulness of mobile speech.

“[The voice] capability is incredibly addictive because people use their phones in their cars with their headsets and various things,” he says. “The use of voice dialing [becomes a kind of] religion.”

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