The recent update to Google Now has just made one of the nicer Jelly Bean features -- offline voice recognition -- available for third party developers to use, and voice command app utter! is the first to take advantage of this feature. Utter! is positioning itself to help accomplish most anything that could normally be done by a default Google Voice Search and go beyond that to then let you control other device functions outside of the scope of Google's own offering.
Hang with us after the break to see what utter! brings to the table in its current beta state.
The interface isn't too pretty or intuitive, but utter! is in beta after all. Luckily, there's a great tutorial that will talk you through pretty much everything from the start. It will start talking you through the menus, pane by pane, and even switch to the relevant screens automatically as it goes. Not only is it useful from the standpoint of understanding where all of the settings are, but it also has you go through a few different commands to get a feeling for how well the app is recognizing your voice and how to activate everything.
Once you've walked through the tutorial and had the device learn your name and check to see if its recognizing your voice properly, it's off to the races. The main settings menu gives you a list of commands that are available to you, but you can easily learn what it's capable of by just asking it basic questions. You activate utter! by tapping the persistent notification in the notification bar, at which point it'll make a sound and start "listening" for your input. Make a query, and you'll receive an audible response quickly. The whole idea of utter! is to not only let you give audible commands, but to also receive audible responses -- something that other apps usually only do half of.
One set of queries that sets utter! apart is that it can handle device functions -- such as toggling Wifi, Bluetooth or mobile data -- as well as integrate with other apps. Once utter! is connected to other apps, you can have it post a Facebook status, compose a tweet or check in on Foursquare, among others. Things like "What's the weather like?" and "What's todays date?" are also included, and are carry-over commands that can already be answered by Google Voice Search baked into Android.
Speaking of Android's built-in Voice Search, utter! is the first app that is taking advantage of the newly-available offline voice recognition that was built into Android 4.1. With the latest update to Google Now, the offline voice recognition is now available to any app that wants it, and utter! uses that to bring much of the voice processing offline. This should help with response times in bad signal (or no signal) areas and generally improve the app's overall responsiveness. Most who have been using the Jelly Bean keyboard or Google Now have already downloaded the required speech package -- which is only about 20MB for English -- and utter! can use it right away.
There's an absolutely crazy number of settings available in utter! that can actually get a bit overwhelming. Fortunately most are basically configured out of the box if you just want to get moving with it. The developer notes that the interface does need some improvements and tweaking, and this is all just cosmetic. The settings get you where you want to go and provide the granular control if you're interested in tweaking as well.
Overall, we see some great potential in what utter! is doing here. The idea of having an app that is ready to both listen and also reply audibly to your commands at any time is a compelling one. As utter! continues to be developed and eventually exits beta, we could definitely see it picking up even more users.