Ultrabooks get voice-control system

Upcoming Ultrabooks will feature a voice-based control system, Intel revealed at CES today.

Ultrabooks get voice-control system

Mooly Eden, general manager of Intel’s client group, announced a partnership with Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking, saying voice recognition would arrive on Ultrabooks this year.

Ask the system a question, and it will answer back in “natural English” or eight other languages. Voice controls will be able to launch applications, play music or movies, and interact with social networks, email and calendars.

The conversation is performed locally, without having to process anything in the cloud. This is “unlike some systems”, said Eden, in reference to similar services such as Apple’s Siri for the iPhone.

Nuance is developing a way for the system to be used for translation, with the computer hearing in one language, but speaking back in another. It will also release an SDK so third-party companies can create applications using the technology.

New ways to interact

The speech system was announced alongside demos of other interface innovations, as Intel chose to focus on user experience rather than chips.

Eden said the computing industry has traditionally focused on improving performance, leaving interface systems behind.

“If you look at user interface, we didn’t do a lot,” Eden said. “We didn’t do a lot for two reasons: not enough innovation, and we didn’t have enough computer power to do what we knew people wanted to do. You didn’t have the horsepower to take it to the mainstream.”

Eden showed off an Ultrabook with a touchscreen running Windows 8, saying such a device would be the “ultimate solution”, with Intel’s research suggesting people want both a keyboard and touch capabilities.

Despite touch being “very intuitive”, he said such dual systems have so far not shown up in many notebooks and Ultrabooks. “It’s not going to skip the Ultrabook any more,” he added.

Intel also demoed gesture controls being used to interact with a game on an Ultrabook, saying such systems were ideal for applications such as Google Earth.

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