Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Talking to your browser

I stumbled upon a really interesting firefox addon recently called 'Firesay'. The 'Firesay' addon is a first step towards enabling voice commands in the Firefox browser. It has a limited set of voice commands. What worked for me were 'Switch' (to switch to left or right tab), 'Close Tab', 'Multi-task' ( to open a website in the background - worked for me for CNN and Facebook), 'Page Up/Down' and 'Scroll Up/Down'.

I was curious to see if it would work in SeaMonkey too so I tweaked the extension which I downloaded from here http://bit.ly/bv0e2r and tried it in SeaMonkey. Only Scroll and Page Up/Down worked for me in SM and the response was bit slower than on Firefox. Still it seemed like something really exciting to experiment with. What I really want in SM is voice commands to switch between each of the apps in the SM suite. So that for example when I'm browsing the Internet I could simply say 'Chatzilla' and switch to Chatzilla and then say 'Browser' to switch back to the browser or 'Mail' to switch to Mail. Right now I'm planning on using the Firesay addon as a guide towards achieving that.

Firesay pluses

- It doesn't need training. It has a few standard commands built in. This is the concept of Voice Browsing where you have multiple users and a limited vocabulary.

- It works in the presence of noise even. I used the headset microphone for testing with my favorite radio station (http://www.tnlrocks.com/listen_live/player.html) playing in the browser and still it picked up my commands without any mistakes.

Firesay minuses

- It only works in Windows because it utilizes the built in Speech recognition software of Windows.

I'm bit surprised Mozilla hasn't made more progress in Voice Browsing though. Seems Opera is ahead in the game with Opera Voice but unlike Firesay you need to press a button to activate the listening every time you use it. Opera also has gesture recognition for browsing which may be intended to provide easy access to the handicapped. Voice commands seems the more natural way of communicating with a computer to me though. I'll let you be the judge of that http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkNxbyp6thM.

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