‘Dragon Go!’ Voice Search for iPhone Is Surprisingly Intelligent

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The other day I received a package, or I should say what in hindsight seems a waste of one: a large box, inside which lay a jumbo-sized cardboard egg, from within which I plucked a tiny rectangular piece of colored paper slightly larger than a business card. On the card, a picture of an iPhone, a greenish tongue of flame, and the words “Introducing…. Dragon Go!”

This is apparently someone’s savvy marketing idea to get my attention (or squander cardboard), perhaps hoping to conjure some latent connection to the dragon eggs featured in HBO’s recently completed (and as of today, multi-Emmy-nominated) first season of Game of Thrones. Intentional or no, I’m making my way through the HBO series now, and here I am, writing about Dragon Go!. Mission accomplished, outsourced PR person!

(LIST: 50 Best iPhone Apps 2011)

Dragon, as many of you may know, is the call sign for a suite of speech-recognition tools, the forerunner of which, DragonDictate, was released in the early 1980s for DOS. It’s since been recognized as perhaps the most accurate of the consumer-grade speech recognition utilities (at one point, employed as a computer systems engineer, I provided tech support to a quadriplegic who used Dragon Naturally Speaking—as it was called by 1997—to run his entire home office).

Enter Dragon Go!, basically a freebie iPhone version of publisher Nuance’s voice recognition technology, designed to let you conjure answers to natural language questions. Dragon says it’s partnered with 180 content providers, including AccuWeather, Bing, ESPN, Facebook, Fandango, iTunes, Last.fm, LiveNation, Milo.com, OpenTable, Pandora, Rotten Tomatoes, Twitter, Wikipedia, Yelp, YouTube and Yahoo. The idea’s that you ask the phone a question and it’ll not only recognize what you say, but understand the semantics of the question in terms of the most appropriate content portal.

“Say what you want and Dragon Go! will deliver your results within seconds,” goes the app-info sales pitch. But does it really? After fiddling with it a bit this morning, I can say it does, and with sometimes astonishing intelligence, though it still occasionally fumbles the ball (hit the jump below for my hands-on impressions).

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