Android

Utter your commands, and Android will respond

Jack Wallen introduces you to a new Personal Digital Assistant for Android called utter!

Utter

The world of Android is filled with possibilities. Such is the case with the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). The iPhone has Siri and Android has... well... multiple options. Currently, the most popular PDA is Google Now, but there's another option on the rise. Ladies and gents, meet utter! This PDA is currently in beta, but it's incredibly impressive, highly configurable, and can meet your needs in ways neither Siri nor Google Now can.

Utter not only listens and responds to your commands, it also allows you to customize commands, edit current commands, have full control of the device, add nicknames to contacts, and so much more (with more coming). Of course, with this kind of power, there is a caveat or two. First and foremost, utter isn't as simple to dive into as Google Now. In fact, there's a 15-minute intro video included with the installation.

I hope to help get you going without having to sit through that video. Let's get the beta installed and start using utter to see if it is, in fact, a PDA that's better suited to your needs and style of usage.

Installation

Surprisingly enough, the installation of utter is quite simple (and standard). Just do the following:

  1. Open the Google Play Store on your Android device
  2. Search for utter
  3. Locate and tap the entry named utter! Voice Commands BETA
  4. Tap Install
  5. Read the lengthy permissions listing
  6. If the permissions listing is acceptable, tap Install
  7. Allow the installation to complete

Once the install is finished, you should find a blue utter icon on your home screen (the color is important). The blue icon gets you into the only interface utter contains — customization. Tap that icon, and then accept the EULA. At this point, you may need to select your voice engine (if you have multiple engines on your device) and the default English voice engine (eng-ind, eng-gbr, or eng-usa). After you've dismissed the various windows that greet you, you'll find yourself within the customization window (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

Utter running on a Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy S4.

One of the first things you should do is locate the Launcher Shortcut entry and tap it. This will create a gold utter launcher on your home screen. This gold launcher fires up utter to accept your commands.

Basic usage

To use utter, tap the gold launcher. When you first launch the utter voice recognition, you may be prompted to download a high-quality voice. On the HTC M8, this was not necessary — on the Samsung Galaxy S4, it was. You do not want to use utter with a low-quality TTS engine.

One of the first things you might want to do is tell utter what to call you. For example, I tapped the gold utter launcher and, upon it saying "How can I help you," I said "Call me Zombie King." Now, when I launch utter, it says things like "What can I do for you, Zombie King?" or "Yes, Zombie King?"

Silly, but we all know customization is important.

Another one of the first commands you should give utter is "float commands." This will pop up a small window (Figure B) that lists the basic commands. You can start with the command "start listening," which will initialize a permanent state of listening. Now, you only need say "wake up" and then speak your command, such as "What is the weather?"

Figure B

Figure B

The utter command pop-up window.

Utter also allows you to link applications. This means that you can, for example, post to Facebook or Twitter using utter. To link an application, do the following:

  1. Tap the blue utter launcher
  2. Locate the entry named Link Applications
  3. Locate the application you want to link (Figure C)
  4. If the app isn't installed, tap the entry for Install (such as Install Facebook)
  5. If the app is already installed, tap the entry for Link (such as Link Facebook)
  6. Allow utter to authenticate with the app (if necessary)

Figure C

Figure C

Linking applications in utter.

At this point, utter can now post for you or interact with the linked app. For example, to post to Facebook, do the following:

  1. If you have permanent listening started, say "wake up"
  2. When you hear the prompt, say "Facebook status"
  3. When utter asks what you want to post, speak your status update
  4. After utter reads back your status, it will ask you if you want it posted — say "yes" or "no"

Utter is a pretty impressive piece of software, especially for a beta. I can imagine a lot of users accepting this as their default PDA. There are a lot of other customizations to be had with utter, and in an upcoming post, I'll cover the task of creating custom commands, word replacement, and nicknames.

What Android PDA do you prefer? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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