11 Amazing Things You Didn't Know Your Voice Could Do

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From asking your phone for movie showtimes to dictating a memo into a headset, you already know the basic uses for speech recognition software. But as microphones become better at isolating voices from background noise and artificial intelligence algorithms get smarter at intuiting the speaker's intent, voice commands have become less temperamental and more genuinely useful than ever. Here are some of the most exciting things you can do with the right devices and a few choice words.

1. Turn On Your Tablet or PC

Devices that run on an Intel® Core™ M processor include a feature called Wake on Voice, which lets you turn on the tablet or PC with a preset phrase. While speaking out loud doesn't seem much easier than pushing a button, the key here is distance. Turning on a computer from across the room means not having to pause during multitasking, or starting the morning with a few more lazy moments in bed (especially when you follow up with more voice commands).

2. Find an Elusive App

The great thing about apps is also the worst thing about them—we download so many that our phones and tablets get increasingly cluttered with icons and folders. On an increasing number of devices, you can find and open apps with a simple voice command, either by naming the actual software (saying, “open Gmail”) or the task (saying, “scan barcode”).

3. Play a Specific Song (With a Specific Service)

Though Android and iOS devices will take audible song requests, they default to their own apps and libraries. Windows machines with Dragon Assistant designed for Intel® RealSense™ technology are more responsive, letting you specify both the song you want to hear and the service or app you want to play it with a single command. Again, it doesn't sound like much of a difference, but when voice control cuts to the chase, it makes swipes and taps feel sluggish and old-fashioned.

4. Find (And Hear) A Wikipedia Entry

Why wait for Siri to tell you that it found a Wikipedia article when you can cut out the middleman (or middle machine, as it were)? Dragon Assistant lets you search directly within Wikipedia with one command. It can also read the entry back to you, if you're otherwise occupied.

5. Snap a Photo

Though it's not a universal feature, some smartphones let you take a photo using a single word. Unless you're a professional spy who has no qualms about constantly mentioning “cheese” while snapping surreptitious images, the real application is for selfies. A voice-controlled camera makes sense when you can't see the shutter button, or when you've propped the phone somewhere beyond arm's reach.

6. Fly Through Social Media

Another example of Dragon Assistant's focus on vocal efficiency is its integration with social networking services. When you say, “Post to Facebook,” and dictate a message, the software posts a status update without making you open a browser. That's beginner-level stuff, though. With more specific commands, you can share content or leave comments (or both, at once) on a friend's wall.

7. Browse Amazon Prime’s Videos

Though you can use your voice to search Amazon's full library of streaming videos for specific movies, shows, actors, or genres (assuming you have an Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick), most of the results are going to require a separate purchase or rental fee. You can limit your search to Prime videos—which are free to watch with a yearly membership—by adding, “Prime only” to the end of your vocal command.

8. Search Multiple Streaming Services At Once

If Amazon Prime isn't scratching your cinematic itch—say, for a movie or series in a certain genre—you can cast a wider net and simultaneously search various streaming video catalogs. With the Fire TV or with devices running Dragon Assistant, you can simply ask for gangster movies and get a list of results that includes relevant offerings from Hulu and Netflix.

9. Flip a Coin

Still can't decide what to watch? Ask nearly any smartphone to “flip a coin,” and the handset will provide an answer for which side of the imagined coin landed face up. This usually comes in the form of simple text (and speech), but Windows Phones throw in an image of a quarter.

10. Crank the Volume, Boost the Brightness

Now that you've finally settled on a movie selection, you can make adjustments to your computer's speakers and screen without lifting a finger. Dragon Assistant lets you raise and lower the volume and display brightness with your voice.

11. Power Down

The final word in speech recognition is “shutdown.” With Dragon Assistant, you can talk your PC into turning off, whether you're half asleep at 3 a.m. or halfway out the door the next morning.

With voice control built for Intel® RealSense™ technology, communicating with your devices has never been more intuitive. See how Intel is bringing more human-like senses to your technology here.