Virtual assistants are becoming the new “thing” in smartphones these days. With the introduction of Siri on the iPhone4S, you can only expect these assistants to become even more popular and sought after. Today we take a look at one such app for your Blackberry called Vlingo which is currently free in the Blackberry App World- one of the Thank You gifts RIM are presenting to its loyal customers after the service outage last month.
Upon using Vlingo for the first time, you find that you have to disable the convenience key (normally the camera button by default) where it then becomes assigned to Vlingo. To use Vlingo all you have to do is press and hold the side button, talk and then Vlingo processes what was said and proceeds accordingly. You can then tell Vlingo to call a number from your contact list- provided it understands the name. You can also tell it to send a text message to someone by saying “Send text message to” and the name of the person.
Other than that, Vlingo lets you search for items on the internet this way but after the initial search you have to do the rest manually. You can also tell Vlingo to open a particular application for you, such as the Blackberry Messenger or Maps but it doesn't open all your applications. Also, I could get it to open Music but not play a particular song, artist or any song for that matter. Once you're in an app, you pretty much have to do things yourself.
Dictating notes or a text message using Vlingo is a mixed bag. If you say what you want clearly, chances are it will get it right but I noticed it does not process accents very well. I tried Irish/Scottish, Southern American, Australian/New Zealand and various British accents and it understood less than half the words.
Vlingo can also read your messages to you, a feature you can enable in the Vlingo menu screen. You can choose between a male or female voice (default is female) but either way the voice is robotic. The annoying thing about this is that it doesn't ask if you want it to read your messages out loud, it just does it. On the Vlingo menu screen you can see a list of examples of what Vlingo can do for you so anything beyond those examples is above your assistant's pay grade.
To be honest I still found it silly telling my phone what to do but I was quite impressed with how far voice recognition has come and even though it still hasn't gotten foreign names and accents right. Unfortunately Vlingo is not as integrated into the OS as I hoped for. For example, I got it to open Blackberry Messenger but not start a chat with someone. Similarly, I got it to search for something on the web but I had to manually open the link from a list of choices.
The limits to what Vlingo can and cannot do are somewhat disappointing. Either way, this is a free app until December 31st so if you can't afford your own real life assistant or would like one that resides in your phone then go to App World and download Vlingo; just make sure you tell people what you're doing or they'll think you're nuts.