DUBAI // A mobile application being launched today will enable Arabic speakers to compose text messages or social networking updates using their voice.
Dragon Dictation is one of two voice-to-text apps that will be made available to the 700,000 Arabic-speaking iPhone users in the UAE.
The application, which is already available in English, is entirely free and operates on a similar platform to Siri, the iPhone 4S application.
It is hoped the app could, once refined, be extended to allow users to dictate texts while driving.
"Our ultimate goal is that every mobile phone comes with a microphone icon on the keypad, so that you have the option to type or to speak," said Reimund Schmald, marketing manager in the region for the developers, Nuance. "We want to allow people the option to dictate a SMS while driving.
"One day, remote controls for televisions will be made obsolete. Instead, you could just change the channel by speaking."
A second app, called Dragon Search, will allow people to search the web using their voice.
The two apps were launched in Arabic two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia and will activate in Egypt in a fortnight.
Nuance has set up a database unique to each of those countries and the UAE. Regional dialect and diction patterns will be stored and used to improve voice recognition.
Mr Schmald said that the application has about a 15 per cent error rate but this will decrease in time.
In six months, it will have an error rate of about two per cent, the same as that of the English apps.
Mr Schmald expects 20 to 50 per cent of Arabic-speaking iPhone users in the UAE to download the app within the first four weeks.
Once a database has been built up of the UAE Arabic dialect, Nuance aims to use it as a platform for other voice-to-text applications specific for the region.
"We are collecting voice data, or 'utterances', as we call them," said Anil Kumar, the regional director of Nuance Middle East. "It will pick up the dialect and diction of, for instance, someone from a village in Homs or a UAE local in Fujairah.
"As more people use it, the accuracy rates will start to get better."