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Ludicrous speed: Bing Voice now 2x as fast, 15% more accurate on Windows Phone

Back in March, upcoming changes to the backend of Bing and its voice capabilities (aka TellMe) were revealed with the promise that those improvements were coming to all Windows Phones. Those changes included significantly faster searches, more accurate transcription and improved accuracy in noisy environments.

Microsoft has just let it out that these changes are now official. That means if you pick up your Windows Phone right now and try to transcribe a text message or do a voice Bing Search, you should noticed the improvements. As these updates come from Microsoft’s servers, there is no OS update needed.

Indeed we’re told that searches are now twice as fast as before with an increase of 15% for accuracy. If you watch our video above of it in action, it is quite fast—dare we say almost instant. It’s so fast now, we’re actually re-thinking our usage of this function, which up until this point has fallen into the novelty category for us.

What about you? Notice the improvements? Will you be using Bing voice search and transcription more often? Let us know in comments!

Source: Inside Microsoft Research (opens in new tab)

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

147 Comments
  • I really think voice items needs better explanation. I am a convert from android and ios and have no idea how to use anything voice.
  • u press and hold the search button
  • the correct answer is Windows button, the middle button just beneath your phone screen.
  • no you press and hold the search button to bring up Bing Voice. WPCentral says so. 
  • That's wrong.
  • i think you are confusing voice search and bing search. Using the voice option from the bing app (the little mic in the search bar) only allows for web searches. press and holding the windows key accesses the main voice command and search function, where one can search bing, send a message, and operate other barious commands and applications.
  • ah is see what you are saying
  • Press and hold windows key, and say "call <somebody> home (or mobile) on speaker". very useful while driving..
  • About 10% of the time I get "Searching the internet for 'Call on Speaker." Drives me nuts. It hears me correctly, but doesn't interpret it as a command. I'll repeat it exactly and it works just fine.
  • That has never happened to me. Are you should you are using the windows key rather than search key?
  • Press and hold the Start button and say 'What can I say?'. It gives you the full list of commands, and how to use them.
  • just press n hold windows home button n click the question mark on the top left n it will tell u wat voice commands can be used. press search button n open bing search screen n click microphone symbol on top left corner n u can only do an internet searc
  • I'll use it - I use the TellMe for texting all the time, in the car.
  • The only time I ever use voice is when I'm on the move. My biggest issue is when I'm in my car ad I have the windows down, or the air on. It keep the phone from hearing exactly what I want it to, hopefully this helps out a bit.
  • My phone links to the car's BT automatically, so it hears me fine. Also, living in GA it's kinda warm, so I don't often have the windows open.
  • I need to buy the BT adapter for my radio, I'm tired of using the AUX plug in my car cause it either always tangles up or I have to keep unplugging it and plugging it back in when I get calls.
  • Mine links to stereo for hands free but the stereo doesn't have streaming, so I use Logitech BT receiver and that plugs into aus input of stereo. Works great.
  • Not me - must have AC! ;-)
  • I'll have to check that out, I don't mind having to pick my phone up and use it to use the text, I just always have issues with the cord. And I have no plans of being one of those poepl who use buletooth headsets, I just can't...lol
  • hopmedic, so it connects to the car AND the BT adapter simultaneously? I've always wondered this... I thought you could only have 1 BT connection at a time. My car only has the BT for calls and aux jack for music just like you.
  • Yes. The way I understand, it can only connect to one BT PER PROTOCOL, and since my car has hands free and the Logitech has A2DP, they both connect. For this reason I purposely got the Logitech that does NOT have the hands free protocol. It is not meant for hands free. Here's what I have in my Camry Hybrid: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B004VM1T5S/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1371498996&s...
    It comes with AC adapter but I happened to have a car adapter that fit and was correct voltage. I had to reverse the polarity, so make sure you heck voltage and polarity both.
  • Thank you VERY much hopmedic. I will be ordering this asap! I have a 2007 Camry SE. Makes me feel even better. :)
  • Cool - my Camry Hybrid is a 2007, too.  The only quirk with this device is that since it is designed for in-house use (the AC adapter), since the power doesn't stay on with it, I have to manually tap the connect in BT settings to get it to connect.  I bought a package of 10 NFC tags to play with, and I ended up programming one to open BT settings, and have it stuck to the overhead console.  Get in the car, wave the phone over the tag, tap connect, and play away.
  • I live in GA too! i stay with the windows down though! Gotta get that breeze! 
  • +1 in GA
  • I've tried to, but you have to crank the volume up to 30/30 to hear the voice prompts at all. They need to fix that first.
  • It has been much faster for the past month or so, but glad to see it is official
  • Hardly use it
  • are these improvements also avaiable for TellMe?
  • Reread the article.
  • i know it says TellMe but i was doing a little experiment, doing a bing search and a TellMe query, saying the same thing and in TellMe it took a little longer to respond. weird. the improvements are great but microsoft should really work on TellMe and make it a more personal asistant (cant do a lot with it besides call, text or voice search) make more like siri/google now in terms of capabilities and functionalities... just an opinion.
  • TellMe is the software that takes audio and converts it to text so that the servers/computers/phones can either do an action or return you results.  Meaning, Bing Search IS TellMe.  TellMe uses Bing Search when you want to search the internet.  They are not two seperate voice recognition items.  TellMe is not a Siri equivalent.  TellMe is the same as "Nuance" which is the software behind Siri.
  • I  noticed the difference over the past few days.  It is very significant.  I even commented to my wife they must have gone live with the improvements.
    I was even able to dictate a text message over my car stereo's bluetooth and it was correct on the first try!
  • It is definitely faster. Very nice.
  • Nope, just tried it with "Wimbledon Draw 2013", and it gave me 20:13 as a time instead of 2013.
  • then don't say them as 2 numbers.Say  "two thousand thirteen"
  • Did you say "twenty thirteen" or "two thousand and thirteen"? Point is that its faster and more accurate
  • no, he tried one thing and it got it wrong, so it is not better
  • LOL
  • I say twenty thirteen not two thousand and thirteen.(2013) As well as nineteen eighty nine not one thousand nine hundred and eighty nine. (1989) What is the correct way of speech for years?
  • The correct way is 'two thousand thirteen'. Anything else is colloquialism.
  • We also said "Y2K" but do you expect it to automatically assume you meant "2000"?
  • I repeated your search and got 20:13 too but the search results were infact still what I/you were looking for.. It didn't just search for '20:13' as your nitpicking suggested..
  • Glad the officialy annouced it. It's been instantaneous for me, (jsut checked, same speed) for about a month and a half. LOVE IT! :D
  • If only you can say "turn off wifi" and then you can quickly test out 4G :)
  • I would like if it could do that
  • I wanted this option since the release of Windows Phone! I would like to turn on/off Wifi but also Bluetooth via speech! Would love it if they would put that into 8.1, but I don't get my hopes up.
  • Woah! That was fast and accurate
  • I wish the improvements were reversed:  Speed +15% and Accuracy 2x  :)
  • That would be nice!
  • Hang on just noticed on my UK Ativ S I don't have an option for Bing voice search?! Is that right?
  • Oops, sorry chaps...I had Speech Recognition disabled!
  • You don't play with your smartphone.do you?
  • Lol usually, it was enabled on my previous Lumia 900 but I never really used the feature. It does work well though...
  • I have got mine enabled but still not showing the mike icon on both messaging & search. Maybe that feature is not enabled in India
  • The streaming thing is awesome...can't wait for that to come out someday
  • What about the WhatsApp update?
  • I use voice to text frequently when driving to respond to text messages.  I'll appreciate these improvements.
     
  • Wow! I feel like I'm asking siri or google now questions, it's seriously that fast.
  • Does this just impact WP8 devices or WP7.8 too? Sorry to be "that guy."
  • It's a server side upgrade so it'll impact every windows phone device.
  • Since the change was made to the servers and not any particular device, my guess is yes, it's for 7.8 too.
  • The update was done in the backend so yes, Windows Phone 7 Phones will get the update. Since its on the servers you don't need to touch Zune to update anything its already live :)
  • I'm with everyone else here. Although the Bing blog post makes no mention of WP versions, I have seen dramatical improvements on my 7.x device, even for some other langages which confuses me because the blog post specifically says english in the U.S. But it might be just placebo?
    Anyway, yes, there are improvements on 7.x. I think.
  • this is GREAT. was really looking to get to grips with voice commands and this is impressive. Certainly just as fast here in the UK. 
  • I noticed the improvements couple days ago. I replied in my convertible and it actually got it down right within the first try. The loud background noises didn't seem to bother my phone
  • Wow, definitely a noticeable difference, much faster and more accurate
  • Good ol' Spaceballs  :-) 
  • What bothers me most is the lack of punctuation mark support. Otherwise it works great.
  • Agreed. If I could tell it to insert punctuation I would use it a lot more.
  • Still as inaccurate as ever in French :/
  • Does Indigo app will be affected too with this improvement? I hope so. If anybody had this app and feel the improvement, just tell me :)
  • Doubtful, unless indigo somehow worked out with Microsoft a deal to use TellMe servers. Pretty much all third party voice apps in the store use something other than TellMe in the app (such as Nuance, a pretty popular speech to text service (stt).) However, if indigo is accessible using App Commands via TellMe voice search, the queries made to indigo via the TellMe Voice Search will be affected, since the speech is being processed by TellMe in that scenario, as far as I know.
  • Still doesn't recognize dirty words.
  • That's ducked :P
  • I noticed the other day that it recognized me when I was driving with the windows down... The first thing I thought about was that Microsoft Research presentation, and the improvements that they listed..
  • After trying this out a few times I am very impressed and will be using this a lot now. Sweet
  • Take a look at the second video, from MSFT Kitchen.  At the 2:37 mark you can see some interesting Speech options in this Bing prototype including "Use Streaming" and "Deep Natural (?) Network".  I assume these toggles are in here just for this comparison demo and that this technology would be baked in to voice search in the production version.  
  • I just tried it on my Lumia 900 and I don't see any improvements, I wonder whether it's Windows Phone 8 restricted, although I don't think so since this is a server-side update, or because I have it unlocked and using in T-Mobile.
  • whether its unlocked or not wont affect that. However, its possible that either WP7.x uses a different server then WP8, or that the way WP7.x accesses the server is different than WP8 and thus is unaffected by the updates. I don't know for sure, but if WP7.x devices are not affected, then those are two possibilities.
  • I've noticed more search results, however the accuracy could be better (voice.)
  • I can confirm this works on Windows Phone 7... specifically my HTC Arrive. This is blazing fast... good work, Microsoft!
  • I thought I noticed it was noticing my friends strangely spelled last names better. Huh, thanks Microsoft :D
  • Very impressed, I stopped using it because it was too slow! Back to voice again!
  • Is this voice enabled search & text U.S. only? Then its of no use to me.:/
  • If you change your phone's UI language to something other than English, it disables the voice recognition.  At least this was my experience with WP 7.5.
  • You can switch it to English UK and it'll work, but annoyingly you'll be stuck with a male voice. I've switched to English US to get the much better female voice.
  • Really? For English (Australia) we get a female voice with an English accent :P
  • Is it a female Aussie accent? If so I might have to try that out haha
  • No. It's not US only. It even works on several languages. I, for one, sometimes use it in Spanish to text and call. Try setting it to your prefered location and it should work. :)
  • I do notice a big improvement in the speed of the transcription on my Lumia 822, and the accuracy seems better, too.
    My 2¢ on voice: It's awesome on Windows Phone where it's available. However, that availability seems curiously lacking where it could really be useful...on the keyboard. If I can dictate in search or messaging, then I should be able to dictate literally anywhere I can type. In other words, put a little microphone icon on the keyboard, and let me use speech to send text to any app on my phone. The current design that limits voice to search and messaging seems awfully abritrary to me. Why is Windows 8/RT so lacking when it comes to voice integration? At the very least, I should be able to dictate in select apps, such as the Bing app or Search. But ideally I should be able to do it from the soft input panel on my Windows 8/RT devices, too. (Yeah, I know that classic Speech Recognition is still available in Win 8/RT, but I've never run across anyone who's really found that useful. It takes an hour to train it, and it's still terribly unreliable).  
  • You're right. MS is way behind the competition here.
  • That would be pretty good, but at what costs to devs? There'd probably have to be an API for the keyboard (though some devs would probably still choose to use their own due to design choices etc) but as every app that would utilise it would need to be able to access Microsoft's serves potentially either putting strain on it, or to compensate, charge devs for that privilege to support server costs. Of course some successful devs may think it's worthwhile while others may need to hike up prices to compensate.
  • Wow, I really like it now. I sometimes had to wait forever when speaking my texts.
  • This is awesome !
  • Yes it is improved. Not Google good but good. We need punctuations.
  • Why we don't have voice to text in messaging in india....
  • I use voice to text whenever I'm driving, so it's nice to know that it will work faster and better than before! I just tested it out and it is noticably faster than before.
  • I only use voice to text for searches, but I definitely notice an increased speed difference. Yay, Microsoft!
  • I'm open to anything but Bing
  • Then your not open
    99% of the results are the same as google
  • *if you're in the US, otherwise they suck
  • Exactly. I'm in the Netherlands and as much I would love to use Bing as my main search engine, I still use Google. Cause the results are wayyy more accurate. Sure wish MS would do something about that. Sometimes I wish I had my home in the US :(
  • You are* 
    And I don't like Bing. What can I do?
  • What would be nice if we could voice activate commands instead of having to hold down the button like you can with Kinect e.g. Just say "Windows Phone: call Tom" or "Windows Phone: Bing weather". That would be even be even more hands free and convenient, especially during driving or having to get your phone out of your pocket as often!
  • I agree. That would be awesome. But extremely hard to pull of in a mobile device because you would need the phone to always be on the look out for the phrase "Windows Phone". Just as Kinect is always looking for the word "Xbox". That would consume resources and probably would have an impact on battery life, etc.
    But we'll probably get there. Someday. :)
  • Damn, forgot about that aspect. I guess another way it could be done for now is if you had a headset plugged in (wired or wireless) and just had to push a button to bring that command up - that would be a realistic alternative.
  • Well, that kind of exist right now. If I use the headset that came with my Lumia, I can just tap and hold the call/end button on the headset and it launches the TellMe interface and you can say Call, Message or whatever. :)
  • Speech has always been probably one of the most important parts of a smartphone for me.  Siri worked for me well, as well as Google Now, but TellMe has (and still is) lacking for me.  I've noticed speed improvements, but accuracy is still horrible. 
    Try this, for example:
    Say "Note....Pay the dish bill".  When I do this, it NEVER comes back with "pay" and instead "hey".  Even with the new improvements rolled out, they stil have a LONG way to go. 
     
    Not only is the accuracy terrible (for me anyway), but the commands are so lacking that it nearly makes you not use it because you have to remember HOW to use it instead of just using it (like Google Now).  Maluuba and Indigo have helped with that (along with Dictate Now, for when I need to just have my speech transcribed into text), but it's pretty ridiculous (IMO) that Microsoft has missed the ball with speech capabilities in Windows Phone
  • This is exactly how I feel. And I agree 100% with all your points.
  • Its definitely faster!!
  • I've lost the tone prompt's for this ,when you press anyone else ???
  • Oops my bad I had Bluetooth plugged in
  • Really fast & accurate. Will make more use of this feature.
  • It is fast, but by no means accurate.
  • Use all the time in the car for Bluetooth texting.
  • Does somebody know if voice search/dictate will ever support other languages? ie. Spanish
  • The voice recognition still sucks. It never gets it right. Speed doesn't matter when it doesn't know what I want.
  • If anything, mines slower now...
  • Not spanish yet?
  • Does this works at all for devices in spanish? At least in my phone, a Lumia 620 in spanish-mx I can't dictate a message or do a voice search. Considering that here is one of the few (if not the only) market where WP actually has a large userbase (about 20% of smartphones sold here run WP) it clearly shows how much microsoft cares about its existing customers. Oh well, we can always wait...
  • Wow.... Bing Search and voice texting is insane fast now. Absolutely hated that stupid music tones while it was thinking that would go on and on before getting, "I didn't get that... try again". Had responses as soon as I stopped talking. Nice job!
  • Whoa!! Now I just need a 5 inch lumia
  • It's noticeably faster indeed, but we need more language. The available ones now is ridiculously small, compared with Google's offering
  • Can't, English only....
  • Seems to be better at understanding "mum" and "carl". Before I had to put on a weird American accent to get it to recognise them - mooooom and carrrrrl respectively :P
  • There's no "TellMe" in our spanish version neither for the messages nor the Bing search......
    When will microsoft start thinking about us??
    Siri works in spanish....... there is many customers that talk a different language and still buy WP8 products, mine is a Nokia Lumia 920
     
  • It looks like many of us are complaining about the same thing. What we should do is look for an official Microsoft site to voice the suggestion/complaint directly to the company.
  • did you find where to give MSFT a push to accelerate things for us in spanish??
  • What do you mean? I use speech-to-text for messages quite regularly in spanish. Bing search through voice is a no-go somehow.
  • Do you live in US? Here in Mexico there's no mic neither in the text message nor in the bing search screens.... There is only very few voice commands that we can use, CALL xxxx , OPEN an app, and I think that's about it.........
  • I do not live in the US. Messages using speech are available to me. Bing searches using voice are not available in any Spanish-speaking region. I asked.
     I would suggest you fiddling with the options and settings. Maybe you have disabled network voice recognition which is necessary to use voice to text. :)
  • Oh yeah! It works so much better. I'll will use this more often now.
  • I'm a French expatriate and absolutely need English + French voice recognition... So far it's still tied to the UI language preference, which I find a bit limiting. Any idea if Microsoft will support language switching on the fly?
  • I've also noticed the the Bing Music Search feature seems to be faster as well. Loving it!
  • Funny is that WP 7 had support for Spanish voice dication, WP8 doesn't  :S
  • Surprised only one person I think mentioned Space Balls! Nice use of a movie quote Daniel!!!
  • I don't see the small mic icon on my bing search in Lumia 920.
    Any idea why?
  • You need to download speech language in settings to see microphone..
  • I have speech language in my phone.. 
    Yet i do not see any Mic icon in bing search
     
  • I had same problem, it said English United States under speech language but I still had to download it and install it. Does speech work when you press and hold windows logo??
  • Tellme is epic for in the car. plug your wired headset in and turn on "use speech when phone is locked". it'll allow you to use the hardware button on your headset to initiate tellme, just hold it down and speak away :)
  • Does this affect wp7 too?..or only wp8?
  • Doesn't like my Aussie accent, but when I put on my best American accent it never fails..
  • Folks, I hope someone can help me. I have a Lumia 920 and music detection via Bing and speech recognition worked quite well until recently. Now when I try speech recognition it states "Sorry couldn't hear anything" and when I check music it is always wrong?
    I don't think the speech recognition is picking up any sound, when I try music recognition always displays the same song as "Space Flight" by Dave Munkhoff from the Album Watch your back????. It recommends the same result even when I don't play any music. This sort of confirms for me that the sound isn't being picked up as the phone says as much "sorry couldn't hear anything"
    In settings I have the following selected
    Play audio confirmations
    Read incoming text messages - Bluetooth only
    Text to speech voice - female
    Enable speech recognition service
    I am running the latest available Windows Phone 8 software and am based in Australia
    I would appreciate any help you can give.
  • Same here since early October. Did you find a solution?
  • Very nice improvements. Its shocking to see Microsoft actually help us out a little.