Things are heating up for Android Wear lately. Earlier this week, a new version of the Android Wear companion app began rolling out to make preparations for the next OS update. There's now an update to the Google app in the Beta channel which follows up with some interesting changes of its own: a new Wear-specific app that places the Google Now stream into a distinct card on watches. A teardown also shows some interesting new experiments for continuous queries and text-to-speech. There's even a small tweak for the Google Now Launcher.
The Google Now Card
Views of the new Google Now card and the first page to the right.
Google Text-to-Speech updates? Psh, boring, right? Maybe it is most of the time, but this update (v3.5.6) brings four new languages including two Chinese dialects. These are, of course, some of the most widely spoken languages in the world.
Google pushed a new version of its Text-to-Speech app a few days ago, and it actually removed a feature. Updates usually add new things, so what's the deal? You can no longer download the high-quality voice models on your device. However, Google has updated the changelog to explain that you don't need them anymore. The regular voice is even better now.
Updates to Google's Text-to-Speech app aren't always interesting, but today's bump actually brings with it two new languages. For those waiting for Hindi and Indonesian language support, it's your lucky day.
Keep in mind that this is the text-to-speech engine, not the voice recognition software that already has support for Indonesian, but not for Hindi.
Text-to-speech is one of those little pieces of an operating system that not many people use, but which is indispensable for those who do. Now if your first language is Japanese, you've got the option to play out text on your phone with Google's first-party Text-To-Speech (TTS) engine. The relevant app is on the Play Store and was updated today, so you might not have immediate access to it thanks to Google's rollout system.
To be clear, this is text-to-speech, not speech-to-text - Google's voice input already works in Japanese for the keyboard (voice typing) and Google Now commands. Check the Language Input section of the main settings menu for that.
Google's Text-to-Speech app isn't exactly one that grabs headlines, but it's certainly useful for those who rely on it. Today it gets a little more useful as Google has added a handful of languages for its speech output support. The latest update adds support for selecting and speaking text in Dutch, Polish, and Russian, and better support for at least some dialects of English spoken in India has been added as well.
Today's update brings the total language support for TTS up to 13, including US/UK/Indian English and Spain/US Spanish. Aside from Korean and the regional dialects, the current TTS options are very focused on European languages, so it's safe to say that Google has a long way to go to further worldwide support.
There is no dedicated app in the drawer for Google's TTS - to change your output settings, go to the main Settings menu, then Language and Input.
I love Update Wednesdays, and today we've already seen pretty decent updates to several Google apps. As you've already seen, Google Play Games was updated to v1.5, but the one I'm excited about the most is, without a doubt, Google TTS v3.0, which made a jump today from v2.4.
So, what's so cool about TTS 3.0?
First and foremost, Text-to-Speech 3.0 adds support for high quality voices. Just how drastic the difference is in day-to-day usage in various apps remains to be seen, but as far as file sizes go, we're talking about a jump from 5-6MB to 200+MB.
Improving on existing TTS technology, Loquendo (a Nuance company) is showing the world that "even computers can show their feelings," with a huge array of TTS engines that are not only more advanced, but significantly more dynamic than existing alternatives.
The bad news is that only two of these engines are currently available for Android – Italian TTS Paola and American English TTS Susan. That being said, we can still hope that more of Loquendo's engines will be adapted for Android, and, in the meantime, Loquendo's website has amazing demos of all its TTS voices, both static and interactive.
A fresh version of Google Translate hit the Market today. Conversation mode (direct speech to speech translation) now works in 14 languages: Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Russian and Turkish. Also new is a personal dictionary, the ability to correct voice input before having it translated, and pinch zoom support for getting a close up of the translated text (Chinese symbols can get surprisingly complicated).
With Ice Cream Sandwich on the horizon, we at AP thought it would be a good idea to give you a roundup of what Google's been cooking up in Building 44. We actually know a good deal about the future of Android; I'm talking real, solid facts. These are features Android engineers have demoed or talked about, and acquisitions Google has made related to Android technology. We even have pretty clear timelines for most of them. A quick note before we get started: most of these videos are like, an hour long -- you're only expected to watch about 30 seconds of them, so pause whenever it gets boring.