It’s been nine years in the making, but there’s finally a virtual assistant app that truly rivals Siri and Cortana. That app has been developed by the folks behind music recognition software SoundHound, and has emerged today, March 1, from private beta with data from 150 sources, including Yelp and Uber. It’s called Hound – Voice Search & Assistant, hands-free speech recognition.
Natural speech without vocal gymnastics
Once you open the app, you can tap on the microphone or say, “Okay Hound,” and start asking questions. You speak naturally, and the app is amazingly good at understanding your speech. It’s not yet perfect, as it kept playing Lenny Kravitz’s “Again” when I said “I wanna play a game,” but I hardly expect it to be spot on when I first start using it. With that said, that’s the only problem I had getting the app to understand me.
What can Hound do?
The ability to understand speech is all well and good, but what really matters is what you can do with it. The answer is pretty expansive. You can get weather forecasts for anywhere in the world, as well as find out what businesses are nearby. On top of that, Hound can tell you how far away the nearest Uber is, how much the price is surging by, and what the hotel room rates are for a pet-friendly establishment with a gym and pool in San Francisco.
Follow up questions
Another thing that really impresses me about Hound is its memory. If you ask the app to show you coffee shops that are open right now and serve food, you’ll get a list of results. You can follow that up by asking for just the highest rated ones, and Hound will narrow down the results for you.
Blazing fast speed
What’s truly impressive is how fast Hound is. It almost has to be speedy, since it doesn’t ship with any devices (yet) and has to be opened before it can be used. With that said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a virtual assistant return results as quickly as Hound does. The translation of voice to meaning is lightning fast, even with complex queries, and it returns results just as fast.
Getting your own Hound
Hound is available as a free download on the App Store, without any ads or in-app purchases. The extra coffee and donuts you consume, or hotels you book, with this super-fast voice assistant are entirely on you, though.