Get a Siri-like interface on Android with Vlingo Virtual Assistant

Vlingo Virtual Assistant is Android's answer to Siri envy. Jack Wallen explains how to get the most out of Vlingo.

Are you jealous when you watch the Siri commercials that make the iPhone look like the single greatest mobile functionality ever created? Do you ache and long to have such a feature on your Android phone? You can have that, you know, with Vlingo Virtual Assistant.

Even though Vlingo isn't a sexy name, it does have a pleasant feminine voice that reads back your incoming texts and email, as well the ability to take your spoken input and achieve plenty of results. There are a few tricks to getting it working as expected, so let's get this baby up and running to make your life infinitely easier.

With Vlingo you can:

  • Send texts and emails
  • Voice dial
  • Search the web
  • Find local restaurants, shops, and other businesses
  • Get directions
  • Update your social status on Facebook or Twitter and check in with foursquare
  • Get answers to just about any question
  • Buy movie tickets and book hotel rooms
  • Open other apps
  • Have incoming email and texts read aloud as they come in


Installation is as simple as:

  1. Open up the Android Market
  2. Search for "vlingo"
  3. Tap Download
  4. Tap Accept & Download

That's it! Vlingo can now be found in the App Drawer on your mobile device.

When you first run Vlingo, you will be greeted with a quick tutorial on using the application. The tool is pretty straightforward to use. However, there are a couple of "gotchas" that you don't get from the tutorial (more on that in a bit).

Once you've walked through the tutorial, you'll find yourself on the Vlingo main screen (Figure A). Here you can access the landing screens for:
  • Sending texts
  • Placing phone calls
  • Finding restaurants
  • Finding businesses
  • Searching
  • Updating social networks
  • Getting answers
  • Opening apps
Figure A

Here you see Vlingo install on a Verizon-branded Droid Bionic. A perfect match of power and useability.
If you simply tap an entry on this screen, you'll see hints about what it can do. If you long press an entry, it will take you directly to that function's landing page (Figure B). Figure B

Here's the landing page for the Social Network status update page.
From the main screen, you can simply tap the Speak It button and then speak your search string into the mic to get a plethora of results. Tap the desired result entry, and you can select what you want to do with the results (Figure C). Figure C

Call, get directions, or view on the web at a touch of a button.

Text to speech

As I mentioned earlier, it's possible to have Vlingo read your incoming texts and emails. There's a caveat to this. Vlingo reads everything, so if an email is long (or a reply in a long thread of conversations), this can get rather tedious and annoying.

In order to enable this feature, open the Settings menu from within Vlingo (tap the Menu button on the handset), and then tap SafeReader settings. In this new screen (Figure D), check the box for the app you want Vlingo to read incoming messages from. Figure D

You can enable both texts and emails.

If you enable email, you also have to make sure you select which account you want Vlingo to read. Tap the Email accounts button and then select the account you want to enable.

You're not done. Although you've enabled the apps, you haven't enabled the SafeReader option. To do this, go back to the main screen and then tap the speaker icon (in the top left) to enable (the "x" sould go away and Vlingo will speak to you "Safe reader is on"). Now, whenever a text or email arrives, Vlingo will read it out to you.

Vlingo InCar

There's a beta version of an in-car dashboard that makes it even easier to use Vlingo. To get to the InCar dashboard, click the tiny steering wheel icon in the upper-right corner of the main screen. When the new screen opens (Figure E), you can tap one of the large buttons and then speak. Figure E

Scroll the main pane to the left to see the Settings pane where you can enable Wake-up Command.

The Wake-up command is very handy for the Vlingo InCar. Having this on allows you to say "Hey, Vlingo" and Vlingo will then follow your next command. So, if you wanted to Text a contact, you would say:

"Hey, Vlingo."

Once Vlingo responds with, "What would you like to do?" follow the rest of the vocal prompts. It's really quite simple.

Vlingo has a number of other amazing options that go a long way to making your Android mobile experience as safe and easy as possible. From within the app, you can even purchase a premium version for $1.99 (USD) that doesn't include ads. I'm fairly confident that once you start using Vlingo, you won't go back to the old finger-tiring, unsafe-driving method.


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

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