Evi: free voice-input assistant for the Kindle Fire

Evi: free voice-input assistant for the Kindle Fire

Note: if you are not an app user, I have something else for you at the end of this post

I’m more of a keyboard person than a mouse person.

When I first learned to use computers, we didn’t have mice. In fact, we didn’t even use a keyboard. Do you know what we used to talk to the computer?

A punchcard machine.

Quickly, though, we got keyboards…and I took a typing class in high school.

Eventually, I got to be pretty quick: I was measured typing in the 90s (words per minute), which is fast, but not world class.

Then along came SmartPhones, and people were texting.

I’ve never really gotten the hang of texting quickly. The keyboard is too small to qwerty on it (at least for me), and the thumb thing…I’d say I’m adequate.

It’s a little easier to type on a tablet (the screen is bigger), and I have happily used a Bluetooth keyboard with my Kindle Fires.

However, typing is still much more of an effort on those little mobile devices than it is on a laptop or a desktop.

My preferred input method now?


Sure, you run into places where you can’t do it (without disrupting people around you), but if I can talk, I prefer it.

One of the things which had been missing on the Kindle Fire, including my  latest generation

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

was voice input.

They fixed that when they gave us Dictate in an update.

Now, most places I would use the keyboard, I can tap a microphone icon instead, and speak it.

I can do that for e-mails: I’ve even done it for posts for this blog.

I now no longer carry a Bluetooth keyboard, for that reason.

That takes care of some of what I need.

I can go to a browser (I prefer Maxthon, but I tested it in Silk for this post) and ask a question, and then search for an answer.

That’s okay…but it’s not like Siri or Google Now, where you can ask a question, and your “assistant” speaks the answer back to you.

Well, the free app

Evi (at AmazonSmile)

gives us that on the Kindle Fire…and it works pretty well.

The app is “speech powered” by Nuance, the same company that make Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

You open the app, tap a big microphone icon (you can type your question, if you prefer), and it gives you the answer…out loud.

For example, I tried this:

“How tall was Mickey Rooney?””

The voice read out, “Mickey Rooney’s heights are 5 feet 2 inches and 1.57 metres.”

Yes, “heights” plural, because it is giving me the height in two different systems.

That answer was also displayed on the screen.

I tried asking it, “Where is the nearest bookstore?”

The results were pretty good!

Obviously, I have LBS (Location Based Services) turned on on my KFHDX.

I thought I’d try something a little trickier:

“What is the tallest building in Boston?”

Hm…that one didn’t work…it suggested I try Yelp. 🙂

I should mention that when it is getting me these answers, it is often giving me links to results on the web.

It also lets me vote: Good answer, or Bad answer.

For this one:

“How old is Jeff Bezos?”

it was quite complete: “Jeff Bezos was born on the 12th of January 1964. That makes his current age 50 years, 3 months and 3 days old.”

It gives quite a few examples when you tap the tutorial. For example, I could ask, “How hot will it be tomorrow?” and it gave me the temperature for an acceptably near by town…in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. I usually use the latter, so I was happy to hear it. 🙂

It doesn’t always get things right, of course. When I asked what movies are opening this weekend, it gave me movies…for September 10, 2010. 🙂

Overall, though, this is a fun way to get answers without typing…and it is free.

Bonus item: I don’t like to do things which are just for the Fire (although I do sometimes), so I thought I’d mention that

Joyland (at AmazonSmile)

just became available for the Kindle.

This is a hit book from Stephen King. 4.4 out of 5 stars, 1,434 customer reviews.

I wasn’t happy when I wrote about it last year…because Stephen King chose to “window” it, and not release it in e-book form initially.

I’m still not happy with that choice: e-books are so much easier for many people with disabilities and challenges which do not rise to the legal level of a disability. However, King did make clear that it would come out in e-book eventually…and I understand the motivation to help brick-and-mortar stores. In other words, I don’t agree with the decision, but I don’t think it should prevent you from getting the book now that it is out in e-book form.

The price?

$6.59 at time of writing…not bad. The book is only ranked #88 paid in the Kindle store right now. It surprised me a bit that it is that low…

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

2 Responses to “Evi: free voice-input assistant for the Kindle Fire”

  1. rhinct Says:

    I used punchcards to talk to computers as much as anyone back then. It all was done while punching keys on a keyboard – I liked the IBM 029 myself. The digits were a special shift for the right-hand, ruining that hand for proper touch-typing forever more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: