On e-books, better speech recognition, tablets, and libraries

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voicerecogCould stellar recognition of speech be The Next Big Thing for tablets and smartphones fit for e-books—well at least eventually?

Imagine the possibilities. And I don’t just mean e-book apps set up for “Next page” or “Go to end of chapter” or “Find such-and-such word.” Nor do I simply have in mind the composition of e-mail messages and other new documents.

What about hyper-detailed annotations of e-books, both the library and retail varieties?

How much more useful would be shared annotations with speech recognition! You could sum up your main point at the beginning of a note, but offer truly in-depth commentary when you wanted to. No more hassles with child-sized keys—and less reliance on a virtual keyboard!

Granted, iOS devices like the iPad 3 and Android gizmos like the Nexus 7 and some smartphones offer speech recognition already, and, in fact, I dictate most of my email when I’m using my iPad. But, at least going by my iPad experiences, the technology isn’t nearly as far along as it should be, and all too often I must clean up even if I’m still ahead compared to using the virtual keyboard alone.

But suppose my iPad were better at it. What’s more, think about the usefulness on smaller-screen devices like the Nexus 7 or the forthcoming iPad mini, where the virtual keyboard is or will be too little for me. In fact, with increases in processing power, as well as further miniaturization and advances in battery life and juice-thrifty CPUs, I can even envision voice recognition on Kindle-style E Ink devices. You could use the recognition only when you wanted, thereby reducing battery drain when you’re just reading.

Easy text entry via speech recognition could go a long way toward turning Kindles and the like into general-purpose tablets, further blurring the lines.

Now—a little more on the library angles of voice recognition in small devices. Increasingly, as I and many others see it, libraries will become places to create, not just consume, and affordable tablets and phones with truly excellent voice recognition would accelerate the process. I’ll welcome opinions from LibraryCity visitors. If nothing else, is anyone else out there using dictation already, on what machine, and for what purposes?

And more on tablets as creation tools: Already, if I wanted to, I could use the Posts app on my iPad to compose blog entries. Posts leaves even the most recent WordPress blogging app in the dust since it’s closer to full strength WYSIWYG, and Blogsy might be another possibility. Would that I enjoy better voice recognition and task-switching on the iPad!  I’m writing the present post on a desktop with the Dragon Naturally Speaking v12, the latest—far, far superior to anything I’ve encountered on a tablet.

The Microsoft Surface angle: Given its firepower, perhaps the forthcoming tablet from Microsoft will come from the start with decent voice-recognition capabilities through a bundle with the OS or through add-on software. It would be nice, here and elsewhere, if the voice recognition could be integrated with reading applications.

Detail: I picked up the image from an old Mashable article on voice recognition in other contexts.

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