With voice dictation built right into the keyboard of most smartphones, dictation apps have become a hard sell. But now Nuance, arguably the leader in speech to text, thinks it has a good reason for people to start paying for one: it's coming out with a new app called Dragon Anywhere that's supposed to be far more powerful at dictation than anything Apple or Google can offer.
Just make sure you have a good connection
Dragon Anywhere will launch later this fall for iOS and Android. It's essentially just a notepad app, but it's supposed to be able to accept endless voice input, so you don't have to stop and wait for results every 30 seconds or so like you have to with Siri's dictation. Nuance says that transcriptions should appear pretty much clause by clause, but you'll need to be on a good internet connection for that to happen — during a demo of the app, Vox Media's patchy Wi-Fi connection meant that transcriptions came through in piecemeal chunks. They always appeared eventually, however, and they were quite accurate.
The app also allows speakers to navigate through a document using voice commands. That includes moving between entry fields in a form and actually editing the transcribed text, using commands to select words or sections and apply changes to them.
Nuance is well aware that most people don't need to do that much transcription, which is why it's designing Dragon Anywhere more as an office tool than a casual writing app. In addition to transcription and editing, the app also allows speakers to create custom dictionaries and text shortcuts, which expand into larger blocks of prewritten text. Custom words and expanders can be synced between devices and over to new Dragon desktop apps for Mac and PC.
The big downside is that Dragon Anywhere will only be available as a subscription — not as an outright purchase. Running servers to handle all of those transcriptions is expensive, Nuance says, but the subscription allows it to handle dictation without forcing speakers to take a break. The new Dragon desktop apps will be sold at a flat price, however. Nuance hasn't decided on a price for the subscription just yet.
Nuance says that doctors are heavy users of its desktop apps
Nuance seems pretty confident that there's a market of professionals — doctors, service workers, and basically anyone who's regularly filling out forms or jotting down long observations — who'll sign up to use Dragon Anywhere. At the very least, there are clear reasons to use this app over built-in dictation tools or Nuance's old Dragon Dictation app, which hasn't been updated in over two years.
Though the prominence of mobile dictation tools may seem to put Nuance in a tough spot, that's not really the case. Nuance's technology is quietly used to power some of those very tools, including Samsung's S Voice. It's also believed to be behind Siri — or at least it was at some point several years ago (Nuance declined to discuss any dealings with Apple). That means Nuance already has a prominent position in mobile, but it'll need apps like Dragon Anywhere to get its name in front of consumers.