Exclusive first look: The voice app that makes iTunes voice controllable

Speak with me's Voice DJ

It’s been quite a year for voice startups that have out-innovated Apple on its own platform.

There’s Siri, which came out in February, and quickly got bought by Apple. You use that app to talk to your phone, it recognizes what you want, and then assists you by talking to dozens of web services. We’ve talked a lot about Siri before.

Today it’s Speak with Me’s turn with its “Voice DJ.” Don’t miss the importance of this app. It’s been in development for years (founder Ajay Juneja first showed me the technology in his “Knight Ridder” car back when I worked at Microsoft in 2005 — it took that long for the technology to get perfected so it could run in a smartphone). Funny enough, Michael Arrington got a tour and was “blown away.” Also funny to note is that the technology was first supposed to be ready in 2007. Ajay told me it took a lot longer to perfect than he expected. Plus, the company couldn’t release until a powerful set of smartphones were on the market.

But now that it’s here: wow.

You hold a button and tell your iPhone “play ‘Le Noise’” and Neil Young’s Le Noise starts playing through the speakers. “Play Lady Gaga” and it’ll start playing tracks from Lady Gaga. “Play next track” and it moves to the next track, and so forth.

You have a variety of other commands, too.

Play song name
Play artist name
Play song name by artist name
Play artist name song name
Play album name
Play playlist name
Add song name to the playlist
Add artist name to the playlist
Add album name to the playlist

Plus dozens of other things to control your iPhone’s volume, or pause/stop the music, etc. You can see all the commands by clicking “help” in the app.

Some things, don’t get caught up on the fact that this is an iPhone/iPad app.

This is a technology platform that will be used to voice control lots of things in the future. It’s just that they needed to prove that this technology would work. It does. Remarkably well.

I expect that Google or Apple (or some other mobile company) will buy this company, just like Siri was bought. Why? Because it’s strategically important. This lets you use your mobile phone in new ways, especially while driving (it does what the more expensive Ford Sync system does, but brings it to iDevices and soon, other platforms).

After dozens of years of promises that “voice control is just around the corner” it’s finally here. Load it on your iPhone, and let me know if you agree that this is an example of where a startup outran Apple.

Or, watch the interview with founder Ajay Juneja where he talks with me about VoiceDJ and he gives me more insights behind the company and technology and the voice-recognition industry. We did the interview outside, on the 18th green of the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay during sunset. Enjoy that view! But even better is VoiceDJ worked every single time, even with the noise of the waves in the background.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

22 thoughts on “Exclusive first look: The voice app that makes iTunes voice controllable

  1. I used to have similar functionality on my PocketPC – I installed this on my 3G and it wouldn’t work at all so big fail for older technology.

  2. i don’t think people see the long-term applications here – what happens when you take it beyond music playlists, as SWM Inc says above. typing in your phone sucks – no matter what phone you have. i was standing in line waiting for a coffee today – took me 1 minute to type what would’ve taken me 5 seconds to say. now what else can this be applied to?

  3. Hi Nelson,

    It is important to remember that this is a PLATFORM for any iOS/Android developer to add natural language as a core part of their app very easily, quickly, and in a very accurate manner. We made VoiceDJ to market the platform.

  4. I drive a lot, have a huge music collection on my iPhone and have used the iPhone voice control system maybe once. I didn’t abandon it because it didn’t work — it actually works pretty well — but because voice control systems are unnatural for music discovery and playback. Most people either want to flip through their music catalog and pick artists/tracks as they get inspired or, increasingly, use Genius mixes. I don’t see this app getting much long-term usage. It also doesn’t help that the app is essentially marketed as a slightly better and more accurate version of the native voice control systems on iOS and Android.

  5. More voice reco stuff that no one ends up using long term, and duplicated already, perhaps a slightly better copycat, but the appeal will be limited to the car-computer-modder (or maybe the real DJ/music-nerd niche), and the process goes against human psychology, as you have to know exactly what you want before you search for it. When doing music, most people will just want to fire up the 80s collection & mix on random, rather than having everything pre-memorized…search is open-ended, you don’t know what you want, until you see it.

  6. Voice control isn’t for all … ;-)

    Quite seriously, I wonder how well the app will help you pick a new playlist while out on a run (at least it will encourage a more fit, less breathless running style …)

  7. Oh wow I met him at a weekly Silicon Valley car meetup years ago. He gave a demo of voice control in his Audi RS4 using a computer in the trunk. It was really slick for controlling music.
    This is also the meetup where I saw an iPhone before it was released. Gotta love this area.

  8. More accurate. It’s better than Android’s ‘cos it’s client-side, not server-side. That’s basically it.

    Nice, but not as revolutionary as Flipboard or Siri.

    1. Actually, because we’re client side, we can scale a lot better than Siri can. We have some very unique stuff in the works server side too. There’s a lot more coming you haven’t seen yet Ben! :) We’re just getting started!

  9. I simply don’t see the value in Voice DJ outside of perhaps when your exercising and can’t type or some similar scenario. It’s neat for sure, but it’s simply another app that doesn’t revolutionize the world. More than likely that’s part of the reason Apple hasn’t created something similar.

    Voice control’s value, to me, is mainly limited to search and while one could argue this is search in a sense, the Voice DJ technology is more valuable if it were truly voice activated, no buttons, and could be used like the Sync system, or as a home theater/home automation system.

    As stated, neat app, tried it, but won’t use it.

    Keep up the good work, and to each his own.

    jffcrmr.

    1. You must not drive a lot. I do, and have an extensive music collection. It’s nice to be able to use voice control instead of playing around. Also, exercise is important too. The button? Yeah, but that seems to be needed. Otherwise it might think you’re talking to it when you’re just talking. That’s something they could change in future, though. The Ford Sync used a button when I played with it, too. So does my Toyota’s system.

      1. Voice control is great when you know exactly what your looking for and can recite it by name… alas my memory has never been good and I usually need to visual sift my music a bit before finding what I am looking for…

        that aside super happy to see that voice recog is getting more accurate and portable.

      2. oh, don’t get me wrong, i do drive a lot, and agree with you that the technology behind the app is far more important. i also agree with you that there is a tremendous value in the service when driving, that’s what i enjoy about the sync system, toyota’s and independent manufacturer’s similar products. that said, simply as an app to use when on the go and not driving, or where one’s hands are free to seek music, the app as a stand alone item doesn’t hold much value for me personally.

        certainly appreciate your perspective and those of others though. after all, you did get me addicted to instagram and a few other apps. :)

    1. iOS does it out the box too, it’s just less accurate than this. Just hold Home on an iPhone, and speak.

      Oh yeah, and this is on the client. Android and Nokia do it server-side, so you need a network to use it.

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