Jul 11, 2019

iOS 13: interesting options for dictators

Given the deteriorating political situation of many countries in the world today, the title of this post may seem ominous to some; however, the actual situation for those who use Apple's iOS operating system seems to call for some optimism in the months ahead. Among all the myriad feature changes in the upcoming Apple iOS 13 (now in the Public Beta 2 phase), there are a few which may be of particular value to writers and translators who dictate using their iOS devices.

Attention Awareness
This is 2019, and not only is Big Brother watching you, but your iPhone will as well. The rear-facing camera on some models will detect when you look away from the phone  perhaps to tell your dog to get off the couch  and switch off voice control. The scope of application for this feature isn't clear yet, and I have my doubts whether this would be relevant to more ergonomic ways of working with applications like Hey memoQ (which involve Bluetooth headsets or earsets to avoid directionality problems as the head may turn to examine references, etc.), but for some modes of text dictation work, this could prove useful. I have lost track of how often I've been interrupted by people and found my responses transcribed in one way or another, often as an amusing salad of errors when I switch languages.

Automatic language selection in Dictation
The iOS 13 features preview from Apple states, "Dictation automatically detects which language a user is speaking. The language will be chosen from the keyboard languages enabled on the device, up to a maximum of four." Well, well. I wonder how it will handle isolated sentences or paragraphs quoted in another language  or individual foreign words. I'm betting probably not. But I'll have great fun pushing this feature around with three or four spoken languages to find its limits.

Add custom words
This is what I have wanted for years. Custom audio recognition vocabulary  words and phrases  to ensure that unusual or specialist terms are recognized and transcribed correctly. BINGO!

On-device processing
All audio processing will be handled locally (on your iPhone or iPad), ensuring privacy if you believe the NSA and/or the Russians or other parties aren't tapped into your equipment.

Enhancements to voice editing and voice-driven app control
There are a lot of these. Read about them in the Accessibility section of the features description from Apple. My first impression of these possibilities is that editing and correcting text may become much easier on iOS devices, and the attractiveness of the three-stage dictation/alignment/pretranslation workflow may increase for some translators. (An old example of this is in an old YouTube video I prepared years ago for a remote conference presentation, but the procedure works with any speech-to-text options and has the advantage of at least two revision steps.)

It's even more interesting to consider how some of these new features might be harnessed by apps designed to work with translation assistance environments. And if Google responds - as I believe the company is likely to do - with new features for Chrome speech recognition and voice control features in Android and desktop computers, then there could be some very, very interesting things ahead for wordworkers in the next year or two. Vamos ver!

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