App Review: What is Edwin?

Edwin is a great speech recognition app, with lots of little useful features. The developer has done well with the tools provided by Google.

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I am amazed at:

  • “Translate my name is Bob into German”: Edwin understood this multipart command. This is difficult for the app to do because in this case free text (my name is bob) is mixed with commands (Translate) and expected words (Germans). It solves the problem by assuming any language word you say is the target language you want to translate to. So, for example, this phrase cannot be translated: “Translate I speak Spanish into Spanish”.
  • “Launch Digital Recipe Sidekick” I could launch any of my apps like this one, very powerful.
  • “Where is the nearest coffeeshop” Worked well. I would have liked it to jump to the map.
  • “Map nearest coffeeshop” works well too
  • Handles some synonyms. I can say “nearest” or “closest”.
  • “What’s the weather tomorrow” I love asking about the weather, I feel powerful and space age when I do it. No more watching the weather man

Simple Speech Apps. Really.

Difficulty/areas of improvement:

  •  In many cases, the app does not give me enough time to speak my command. This is a restriction made by Google, but fixed in Android 2.2.
  • It never asks follow up questions. For example, if I asked for the nearest coffeeshop, it is very likely, that I will want to see other options or switch to navigation mode. However, the developer may have done that on purpose so that the system doesn’t have to wrestle with trying to have a human conversation. Instead you just say “Map nearest coffeeshop” to get what you want.
  •  It says “Error has occurred” about 25% of the time, but doesn’t tell you what went wrong, so you can’t correct it. Was it the network?, Did you just not understand me?
  •  I suggest adding “list” to the questions, to allow, users to hear more than one answer.
  • If I say “Launch Recipe” it does not launch the Digital Recipe Sidekick app. To get that to happen, I need to say the entire phrase, which is difficult with Google’s speech recognizer. I only have one app called “Recipe” on my phone. So there is no reason why Edwin could not identify it.

Overall comments: Android’s speech recognition doesn’t solve all the usability issues, but regardless you can develop a very useful app with it.

It is difficult for developers to make an app that allows the user to engage in an interactive dialog to requires recovering from a speech recognition errors.

This app has taken the approach of not attempting a dialog. Instead it provides you a wide range of one liners that are powerful and useful.

Additionally, the help system easily allows you to figure out what you can say.

In short, learn his magic phrases and Edwin will become your friend.

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