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is a feature that not many of us use on our smartphones (available in & iPads, BlackBerry, Nokia and Android smartphones). But, app developers have taken the voice function a step ahead with voice-activated apps — facilitating hands-free computing.

It takes time to master the commands, but once you are familiar with the apps they can help navigate or dictate actions faster.

Vlingo || For BlackBerry, Android and iOS devices
Price: $10 (for add-ons)
Vlingo, a free virtual assistant app, allows you to access your emails, Twitter, Facebook, SMS and surf by using voice commands. For example: The voice command “Update Facebook; needs coffee right now” will update your status with “Needs coffee right now.”

You can also use similar commands to write a message on or search the web with a search engine (Yahoo or Google) of your choice. To dial a contact, Vlingo’s SuperDialer feature can be activated using command, “Dial XYZ.”

The app displays a preview of your message and prompts for a confirmation. The app also reads out incoming text messages and emails via SafeReader feature. For Rs 500, the app allows voice-enabled text messaging and a voice-to-text email option.In nine out of 10 cases, the app was accurate.

Voice camera Pro || For iPhone
Price: $0.99
Voice Camera Pro is an iPhone app that controls the camera using voice commands. Using the touchscreen to click pictures is usually difficult. With Voice Camera Pro clicking pictures become easy.Simple commands such as “shoot” or "double" (two shots at one go), allows hands-free photography. Use the headset in crowded places while using the voice command to transmit your comand clearly. It also allows you to customise commands. For example, if you wish to add “Say Cheese” to take a picture, then key in the words "Say Cheese" in the custom command field and save it. Next time, you utter the words the app will click a picture.

Google Voice Actions|| For Android devices
Price: Free 
Launch the app, tap on the microphone icon and say what you want. That’s about all Google needs you to do with its Voice Actions app. The app allows easy search options using Google Maps to locate businesses and dial the contact automatically.You can also dictate email messages or record a note. The software is available in all phones running Android 2.2 or above. To run the app you will need to download Google Voice Search and a compatible music app from the Android Store.

To call someone, you simply have to tap the microphone button and say “Call XYZ” to dial XYZ or in case of multiple entries a list will prompt you to make your choice (home, office or mobile numbers stored on your device). To get directions, say ‘navigate to (name of place)’. The results will be displayed on Google Maps (make sure GPS is turned on).

Other features of Voice Actions allow you to directly access a website, set alarms and take notes.

Dragon Dictation || For iOS devices
Price: Free
The voice recognition application allows you to speak and instantly see your text or email messages. A free app, Dragon Dictation also sports features that allow users to dictate their social networking updates (Facebook, Twitter), send notes and reminders using voice commands. Dragon Dictation supports both US & UK English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. We found the voice-to-text conversion more accurate while using an external headset rather than speaking directly to the integrated microphone on the iPhone or iPad. Though it cannot read out your incoming mails or message like Vlingo, it does allow you to paste your dictated text onto any application using the clipboard feature. Another convenient editing feature is the list of suggested words (when the system confuses native words). After you have recorded your text, you can use the built-in keyboard to modify words or make any additions such as adding punctuation.

Created by text-to-speech software creator Nuance, Dragon Dictation is a boon for those who find mobile keyboards too cramped for typing. This free app should be a part of iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch list of apps.

SpaceWilli || For Android devices
Price: Free
SpaceWilli is a voice-controlled adventure game. Designed on voice input instead of traditional buttons or touch control, users have to steer a spaceship, christened SpaceWilli, with their voice. If you raise your voice, the spacecraft flies higher (and steers ahead of the obstacles) and when voice goes down, SpaceWilli also climbs down and crashes.

Learning to control the game with your voice does take a little time but it is a fun app to play with. You would be required to calibrate your voice to control the game and SpaceWilli is suitable to Android tablet PCs too.

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