Slaying The Keyboard Dragon

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18 July 2011
Craig Weber

That sound you hear is me, tap dancing on the grave of my iPhone keyboard. And this is not a comment on the iPhone, per se. I love my iPhone, and my Blackberry before it. But let’s just say that neither machine was friendly to my fat thumbs.

The solution? Two applications by Nuance Communications. The first, Dragon Dictation, is a tool that converts dictation to text and then places the text conveniently in your application of choice. Apps such as SMS, e-mail, and Twitter are integrated, or you can cut and paste anywhere. Once you get used to dictating, Dragon allows you to express yourself quickly and easily. Due to the length and "normalness" of my writing, my friends assume I’m on my laptop, when in reality I’m on my iPhone. Cool.

Now Nuance has done it again, with Dragon Go!, an app that extends the dictation model. This time, the target is processing typical commands on your iPhone like reviews, searches, and directions, and pointing you toward best-fit solutions. For example, you can dictate “find sushi near me,” and Dragon Go! will 1) determine that you’re looking for sushi; 2) direct you to a pre-filled Yelp! Search for reviews of local sushi restaurants, 3) provide a phone listing of appropriate restaurants; 4) provide a Google maps page where possibilities are highlighted, and driving directions are a click away; 5) set up an Open Table page in case you want to make reservations; 6) open a Wikipedia page about sushi.

If that all sounds too confusing, it’s not. The app uses a clever tabbing system to show your options, and the most likely destination is always the first one opened. Plus, the integration to the standard apps like Yelp! and Google Maps is good: you don’t have to figure out what to do with your transcribed commands because Dragon Go! does it for you.

You can also dictate a command and a target web site, if you know what you want. So saying “malwarebytes on CNET.com” takes you to CNET’s mobile application, showing search results for “malwarebytes.” Currently, Dragon Go! appears to support almost 200 websites in this directed search mode.

The company says Dragon Go! uses natural language processing techniques (think IBM’s Watson supercomputer) to figure out what you’re really trying to do. I’m not sure how sophisticated this functionality really is, but for what I do on my phone, it’s plenty sophisticated. In my tests, results of dictated searches were highly relevant.

But what does this all have to do with insurance technology, you’re asking? I present it as more evidence that user experiences and tools are changing for the better, in both subtle and dramatic ways. The subtle side includes things like better integration across sites, and between channels. Plus user interfaces that are so effective that they don’t require manuals. The dramatic side is intelligent speech recognition, built into your applications. Twenty years from now will we even have keyboards on our devices? Probably, but I’m certain they won’t be the interaction tools of first resort. Whether you’re an insurer or a vendor, you need to jump on this kind of thinking to stay competitive.

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Asia-Pacific, EMEA, LATAM, North America