Pebble Improves Voice Recognition With a New API

The API will let developers build deeper voice recognition features into Pebble's smartwatches for more hands-free voice commands.

Pebble, smartwatches, API, smartwatch apps, Nuance, voice recognition, voice-activation

Pebble is boosting the voice recognition capabilities of its growing line of smartwatches with a new API that will allow apps developers to build deeper voice capabilities into their software for Pebble products.

The new Dictation API is expected to expand the creation of more apps with voice recognition features to allow wider hands-free use of Pebble smartwatches for everything from connected cars to smart homes and more, the company announced in an Oct. 14 post on the Pebble Blog.

The latest API, which is powered by voice recognition capabilities from Nuance, will allow apps to be developed for the company's Pebble Time, Time Steel and Time Round smartwatches. The API can be used to develop apps for Android or iOS smartphone users so that their devices can work with the Pebble timepieces. Pebble Time users with Android smartphones already have the ability to send brief voice replies using their smartwatches, but the capabilities will now be expanded to iOS apps.

In its own statement about the latest API, Nuance said that its software now will let Android users who have Pebble Time or Pebble Time Steel smartwatches reply to email or texts using their voice at the touch of a button. The Pebble Time Round smartwatch will get this feature on Nov. 8, the company said.

The newly released Dictation API that uses Nuance technologies will bring even more capabilities, the company said.

"Voice opens up a world of possibility for wearable devices—in seconds, messages dictated by voice are sent right from the wrist with just a touch of a button," Scott Taylor, senior vice president of devices for Nuance Mobile, said in a statement. "By opening the Dictation API to Pebble developers, more experiences will be delivered and consumers will be able to connect without having to look down at their device."

In addition to unveiling the API, Pebble updated its latest Pebble Time firmware for its watches and for its Android app (v3.6.0) and iPhone app (v3.3.1). The updates include support for apps built with the Pebble Dictation API, as well as new features and improvements.

Among the improvements are increased weather support in the watch's timeline feature, which now allows users to add forecasts for multiple locations; a new voice language setting for the upcoming new voice features; and a new Bluetooth low energy setting.

Kean Wong, vice president of software engineering at Pebble, said in a statement that the continuing refinement of the company's products is aimed at improving them for consumers.

"The value of a smartwatch is directly connected to its overall aesthetics, fit, and intuitive functionality," said Wong. "Pebble is committed to offering not only a variety of smartwatches that blend into individual lifestyles, but also to expanding the usability of Pebble smartwatches world-wide through frequent software upgrades. Making voice capabilities accessible to developers will help grow the Pebble app ecosystem exponentially, providing Pebble users access to more apps that are fun, intuitive, and easy to use."

Pebble's latest smartwatch, the Pebble Time Round, was announced in September and is available for preorder with shipping expected in early November, according to a recent eWEEK story. The watch starts at $249. The new timepiece includes an always-on, e-paper display that alerts users to notifications, messages, incoming calls and more on their wrists. The smartwatch also provides music controls for users, as well as other capabilities.

The Pebble Time Round announcement came about six weeks after Pebble unveiled its Pebble Time Steel model in early August. The Pebble Time Steel smartwatch features a stainless steel body that's available in three different colors, starting at $249.99. The Pebble Time Steel is a variant of the company's Pebble Time smartwatch that was unveiled in June, which includes a stainless steel bezel and a non-metal body.

The Pebble Time Steel is available with a 22mm-wide Italian leather watchband for $249.99 or with a stainless steel band for $299.98. Buyers can choose from a gunmetal black steel body with a black leather band, a gold metal body with a red-brown leather band or a brushed silver metal body with a gray leather band. Buyers of the steel watchband versions can choose from matte black, silver and gold matching watch bodies with matching metal bands. The metal bands will also be offered separately later this year for $49.99 each.

The Pebble Time Round is the company's fifth smartwatch model.

Pebble introduced its first smartwatch, called the Pebble, in 2013. One year later, it introduced the Pebble Steel. The Pebble, which has a polycarbonate case and a black and white display, sells for $89, while the Steel, which has a stainless steel case and a black and white display, sells for $149.