Automotive App of the Week: Dragon Go!


Stating that voice recognition in many vehicles doesn't work all that well is like saying that traffic in most major cities just keeps getting worse — both obvious and ultimately frustrating. But while VR in cars is slowly improving, the technology on smartphones is advancing at warp speed.

If you want to find out for yourself — for free — check out the new Dragon Go! iPhone app from the people who created Dragon NaturallySpeaking software and the popular Dragon Dictation app. The same cutting-edge voice-rec tech has been applied to Dragon Go!, and your wish for info becoming its command is only part of this powerful app's appeal.

When the app is first launched, you're asked to note your current location via GPS. With your 10-20 confirmed, a bulls-eye red button appears onscreen with instructions to Tap and Speak above it. I decided to test the app's ability to suss out sushi joints nearby. I hit the red button, said "sushi restaurants" and three listings with reviews from Yelp appeared on the screen within seconds. A red bar bordering the top of the listings has three tabs that allow you to tailor your search by best match (the default setting), distance or rating.

While several smartphones and apps have this type of voice-rec, above the aforementioned red border is another cool feature that could establish Dragon Go! as the go-to mobile search app. A banner of web brand icons scrolls across the top of the screen, with the active search engine in the center. My sushi search accessed Yelp, but right next to this tab I could tap on the OpenTable icon (which only listed a single sushi restaurant — an hour away). Or I could scroll the carousel to see a myriad of search options to compare findings: Google, Bing, Twitter, YouTube, 280 and Wikipedia are all represented.

A restaurant search is pretty standard, so I decided to test the app on something more personal and random. I'm playing in a USTA tennis league this summer and need to find a court for a match somewhere between my location and that of my competitor, who lives an hour away.

I hit the red button and asked to find nearby tennis courts. Dragon Go! accessed a Google search and up popped a map with court locations. Curious about comparative locales, I used the carousel banner to scroll to the 280 icon and accessed a map showing all nearby tennis courts. I tapped on phone number to call and ask about availability and court fees. Dragon Go! popped up again when I ended the call and I scrolled to the camera icon on the carousel and checked out images of the tennis courts to compare the conditions.

From the Google icon, I tapped on a somewhat confusing tab — a horizontal bar with a perpendicular arrow in the center — in the lower right corner and emailed my findings to my competitor. The Google share icon allows you to access email, Facebook, Twitter or SMS, but not all search options allow you to do so. This entire process took about five minutes.

You can command Dragon Go! to call a specific store, ask what events are happening in your area, get directions and weather info and even request something random, like where to rent a tuxedo. You can also scroll through the tutorial before starting and check out a list of supported apps and websites. And if you're unsure about all Dragon Go! can do, the settings icon in the upper left corner has a What Can I Say tab.

Now, why can't we get this kind of functionality in the car, especially since the company behind Dragon Go! is Nuance, which supplies VR tech to many automakers? — Gretchen McFarlan, contributor