Ever since Apple unveiled its latest voice recognition wonder ‘Siri’ along with the iPhone 4S, Android developers all over the world started devising alternate solutions of their own. It’s not that Android has been completely alien to voice command-powered apps until now. If you’re an avid follower of Android apps, you might well be aware of Vlingo – a long-ago released app that allows users to control or access various aspects of their devices via voice commands. As for possible Siri replacements, among all other attempts that have been made to replicate the marvels of said application, Iris can be easily cited as the most impressive effort. Inspired from the same voice-based questioning/answering mechanism as that of Siri, Iris tries to help you out with your online queries, calls and texts, and not just that, the app responds to any general questions or statements that you might throw at it. As it is right now, Iris is obviously not at par with Siri, but it won’t be wrong to say that it definitely has the potential to get there some day.
Before proceeding any further, make sure that you have Google’s Voice Search TTS library installed on your device.
According to Dexetra – the developers of the app – it took them barely eight hours to produce the first build of Iris. The initial build didn’t really give you much to work with but the developers have been releasing regular updates for the app, adding new features and improvements with each one.
The app greats you with an introductory screen with basic instructions about its usage. Just tap on the big blue icon at the bottom of the screen to start communicating with Iris.
Be clear and specific (and sensible!) with your voice commands or be prepared for equally inaccurate answers/actions from your assistant. Thankfully, the app is not restricted to receiving/responding to just specific commands for all your call/text-based queries. Instead, you can try out anything ranging from “call [contact name]” to “I want to send a message to [contact name]”. There’s also an option within the app to Enable Question/Answer Voice Playback; helpful for users who don’t wish to have everything read aloud to them.
We managed to test Iris on one of our devices by throwing all sorts of questions at her. Not only did she manage to answer most of the (logically sound) questions correctly but also supported those answers with relevant images. Tapping on such an answer leads you to the source of the information (which was Wikipedia for all our queries ). Ask Iris about the weather at a specific location and she will give a detailed forecast of the entire week.
Iris usually responds pretty well to light chat as well, at times responding with questions of her own. Insults have an unpredictable effect and she never seems reluctant to go on a date or get married. If you wish to ask Iris personal questions, it is always better to say her name at the end or she tends, at times, to confuse it with a query related to, say, a movie or a song.
Provided the app is still under development, one has to appreciate the quality of this preliminary effort. Iris is free on the Android Market.