If there was an over-hyped technology in late 2011 it was perhaps Apple's Siri, their voice recognition/information application for the iPhone 4s. Now we'll admit that Siri is quite a strong piece of tech one that we wish Windows Phone had built-in in addition to our Bing Voice service, but the marketing machine behind Siri was a tad overwhelming. Then again, there's no denying facts: Bing Voice while pragmatic for certain tasks is still behind Apple's Siri in some ways.
However, developer Shai Leib has given us Windows Phone users an option: Ask Ziggy. The new app is a free, ad-free and as far as we can tell, completely unique. We spoke with Leib about his project and how it works:
"Ask Ziggy uses Speech Recognition to translate human speech into transcribed text, which is displayed in a speech bubble. The transcribed text is analyzed for patterns to detect commands or general queries. Commands are interpreted and routed to routine phone tasks such as emailing, texting, calling, social network updates, and getting directions.
When a general question is asked, a mixture of mash up technologies and web scraping is employed to search the web for relevant responses. Pattern matching is used to summarize a direct answer from a web page. Several passes may be required to find a concise answer. A direct answer is then spoken out loud, and displayed in a speech bubble. When a direct answer cannot be summarized the user is prompted by speech to click on their search bubble to see web search results based on their spoken query."
That's some pretty impressive work for a single developer if you ask us. The actual voice-recognition software is based on Nuance but the data fetching and matching are all his doing. And it works. That's one thing we want to stress here, we didn't find this app gimmicky at all but instead quite useful for mathematical questions, random trivia, posting to our Twitter/Facebook/Live, getting directions, flight status and more. Having the phone read back to you the answer in a clean, minimalist setting makes it feel smart. Heck, it even got our Monty Python question right (see YouTube video).
The version you see in the video is heading to the Marketplace as we speak but you can grab the slightly older version right now. Give it a go--it's free, useful and really quite an extraordinary app. Leib also has a lot of plans to further refine and enhance the experience including expanded speech grammar, multi-language support and even language translations. Check out the Ask Ziggy website here for more info.