Ever since I was a kid, I found it fascinating that you could dictate actions to your PC via voice commands. That feature soon found its way to smartphones and today, most if not all of our tasks can be carried out by a simple voice command. From setting an alarm, to playing a song, to navigating to your favorite restaurant, all of this can be done without ever needed to type anything on your phone.
In fact, according to a paper published at Stanford University, using your voice to dictate a message can be three times faster than typing. If you think about it, this actually makes sense, and from personal experience, I can relate that voice typing and voice commands indeed have made life easier. Google’s latest addition to voice input or voice typing was Google Keyboard, now simply known as GBoard. Users could type entire messages and even reply to messages using only their voice. While this was an entirely new way to interact with your phone, it still lacked support or had limited support for languages such as Sinhala and Tamil.
In the most recent update, Google Speech updated voice typing by adding 30 languages and locales around the world, bringing the support for Google speech recognition to a total of 119 language varieties in GBoard for Android, Voice Search and a plethora of Google services. In addition to this, US English users can actually use voice dictation to express themselves with emoji. Simply say “winky face” and the “;)” emoji will be added to your message.
That’s not all though. Among the languages that were added are Sinhala and Tamil (India, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Malaysia). According to Google, they’ve worked with native speakers to collect speech samples by asking them to read common phrases. These were then fed to Google’s machine learning models to work out the sounds and words of the newly added languages and also to improve their accuracy when subjected to more phrases over time.
The new languages will be made available in Google’s Cloud Speech API and will be made available to other Google products such as Google Translate. Currently, Voice typing works for GBoard in Sinhala and the Google app is quite fast in identifying the phrases I read out. I couldn’t seem to get ti to work with Google Assistant directly but Google Search worked fine. Granted, the results are not exactly what you would expect. Given the fact that the app understands what you’re saying, it won’t be too long before we’ll be able to translate what we’re saying in Sinhala to English in real time and even perhaps get navigation instructions in Sinhala as well.
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