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.
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.
Text-to-speech engines read text aloud, saving users from having to read it themselves. Google's TTS offering comes pre-installed on numerous Android devices, and like much of the software previously shipped as part of Android, it's now ready to spread its wings in the Play Store. Here it's available to far more users, as it can now be installed on devices that don't come with the software pre-installed (pictured below -left). In contrast, on the Nexus 5, Google TTS is apparently already installed and unremovable (pictured below - right).
Some devices benefit from this more than others. Galaxy Note 3 users can install Google TTS as a replacement for the less than stellar option Samsung provides.
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).
Us, Hero owners, have been waiting for an OS upgrade for a loooooong time, since the phone got released last October with Android 1.5.
At first, we were hoping for 1.6, then 2.0, and finally 2.1 was promised ("Totally for real this time, yo" - said Sprint and HTC but we saw nothing).
Other phones kept getting 2.1 upgrades but our favorite Hero saw only promises after promises with release dates pushed further and further back.
Android 2.1 On HTC Hero
Therefore, when a Hero Android 2.1 build got [inadvertently - oh, the drama with these leaks!] leaked online, and an Android ROM hacker by the name of damageless (hi damageless!) incorporated the code from the leak into his ROM, called DamageControl, we knew the finish line was near.