Apple’s iOS 5 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch is on the way, and now that the iOS5 beta software is available to developers, clues of a partially hidden feature have been uncovered: Nuance speech recognition, rumored to be tightly integrated within iOS 5.
Although the upcoming speech-recognition features are not operational yet in the iOS 5 beta, parts of it are currently visible in the interface. As you can see in the graphic above, 9to5 Mac points out the microphone icon, placed next to the space bar on the iOS keyboard that’s used throughout the operating system. When a user touches that microphone icon, it opens the speech recognition interface that you see on the right of the graphic above.
So far, it appears the speech recognition capability is only built into the iPhone and iPod Touch, but 9to5 Mac says it’s not too late for it to also appear in the iPad version of iOS 5 by the time it’s released.
Not surprisingly, the secretive Apple is trying to hide the existence of the new features. In the case of the Nuance speech recognition integration, that secrecy probably also has something to do with the incomplete negotiations between Apple and Nuance, the company behind the Dragon speech recognition engine for Mac and PC that we favorably reviewed last month.
Although last year Apple bought the Siri speech recognition-capable app, according to MacRumors, Apple is still in negotiations with Nuance, which also owns the speech recognition tech behind Siri and many other iOS apps.
We spoke with Nuance officials couple of weeks ago, and while they strongly hinted at ongoing negotiations with Apple involving the Nuance’s ubiquitous speech recognition engine, they weren’t talking specifics yet.
In my view, Nuance has been consistantly upgrading the accuracy of its speech recognition engine, and if it were able to facilitate accurate speech recognition throughout the iOS interface, it would significantly enhance all iOS devices.