If there’s one company well positioned to benefit from the rise of wearable technology, it’s Nuance.
Nuance’s voice-recognition technology underlies many companies’ interactive assistants (including, most likely, Apple’s Siri), and that’s exactly the kind of tech you’d want for gadgets that are too small for touchscreens, let alone keyboards. To that end, Nuance announced two new products today at the International CES, a huge technology tradeshow in Las Vegas: Dragon Mobile Assistant and a version of its Swype virtual keyboard for smartwatches.
Dragon is an ancient brand, one of the pioneers in voice recognition technology since its start in the 1990s, which Nuance has owned since its 2005 merger with Scansoft. It’s somewhat fitting that Nuance is bringing it to the most cutting-edge technologies. In a CES demonstration, the company has partnered with smartwatch maker Omate, which has incorporated Dragon into its TrueSmart Android watch. “People can simply speak to their watch to make calls, send emails or text messages, set reminders, manage their calendar, search the Web, and update social media,” the company’s press release promises. “And, with a quick flick from the watch face, users can immediately access game scores from their favorite sports team, quotes for their most important stocks, restaurant recommendations, and the local weather.”
That flick from the watch face could turn into full-on typing with the company’s second product for smartwatches. Swype is a popular custom Android keyboard, which Nuance acquired in 2011. The smartwatch version of the product is optimized for tiny touchscreens, Nuance says, so you can “type” on the screen or even do handwriting that the device will be able to recognize. I’m not quite sure how large a watch face would have to be for that to work effectively, but in any case it seems clear that no one is going to be writing long manifestos on their smartwatches, no matter how smart Swype might be.
Nuance has also formed some intriguing partnerships with other companies to provide additional useful features. For instance, music-recognition from Gracenote will allow smartwatches to tell you what music you’re listening to, in response to a voice command such as “Hello Dragon, what song is this?”
A partnership with Philips will let Dragon Mobile Assistant devices control the color of that company’s LED-based, color-changing Hue lightbulbs.
Separately, Nuance also announced that it would be providing voice recognition and voice-based biometric authentication to TV manufacturers, so they can build those features into their interactive TVs. Its Dragon Assistant for PCs will be integrated with Intel’s RealSense technology for voice- and gesture-based control and will be bundled with Acer, Dell, HP, and Lenovo devices starting immediately. It will be coming in devices from Asus and Toshiba in early 2014. And Nuance’s Dragon Drive product offers voice command features that car manufacturers can build into their vehicles.