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Speech to Text App

by Alan German

One of the problems with smartphones is their tiny keyboards - and their even tinier keys! For those of us who are getting a little older, just seeing the keys can be a problem, but actually pressing the one we want can simply be an exercise in frustration.

I was complaining about this issue to a friend who said why don't I just use the speech to text feature by pressing the microphone button on the drop-down keyboard. Great idea - but, there was no microphone button on my phone's keyboard.

In their wisdom, the manufacturer of my smartphone chose to install a custom keyboard, and this doesn't have any speech to text capability. However, this problem was quickly resolved. A Google search for speech to text applications for Android identified many candidate apps, including one from Google itself - Google Keyboard.

Google Keyboard is a free download from Google Play, so I downloaded the app, installed it, and used it to replace my phone's default keyboard.

The application provides several options for text input - in one of 25 languages if need be. Obviously, it functions as a normal keyboard, complete with the usual tiny keys, but it also allows spelling out words by swiping across the keyboard - a process that Google calls Gesture Typing. It has both word recognition and next-word prediction as you type. So, after typing just a few letters, one click will often allow selection of the entire word. Another feature, that may be of interest to some users, is the ability to call up screens full of emojis - the "smiley face" icons - and insert these into the text.

However, the best part of all is Google Keyboard's ability to do voice recognition and translate speech into text. Using this feature one can compose text and E-mail messages, and even write an entire document, without having to use the on-screen keyboard as a text-entry device. And, what is really amazing is that, without any training, the voice recognition system is incredibly accurate.

As an example, I opened Jota Text Editor, my favourite Android app for producing, editing, and saving text documents. The on-screen keyboard appeared below the editor's display window (see Figure). However, note the microphone control button in the top-right corner of the keyboard display (immediately above the "P" key).

I pressed this key and said: "Press the microphone button comma then just talk and the text appears on the screen period". The result, as shown in the screenshot, is self-evident.

So, if you need to send me a text message indicating that you will buy me a beer at Liam Maguire's, or have a burning desire to dictate an article for Ottawa PC News on your smartphone, the voice input feature of Google Keyboard may be just what you need!

Bottom Line:

Google Keyboard (Free)
Google Inc.

Originally published: June, 2015

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