Microsoft enables developers to add speech recognition to Windows 8 apps

Microsoft enables developers to add speech recognition to Windows 8 apps

Summary: Microsoft is continuing to flesh out its Bing developer platform with a new speech-recognition control, allowing coders to add speech input to their Windows 8 apps.


In July of this year, Microsoft made it official that Bing is more than just a search engine. It also is a dev platform, providing coders with controls, development kits and the back-end services powering these elements.


On October 21, Microsoft added a long-awaited piece to the Bing developer toolbox: A speech recognition control. This new control allows developers to build Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows RT Metro-Style/Windows Store apps that include speech-recognition as one of their inputs.

Microsoft execs also announced updates to the existing Bing Optical Character Recognition Control and Bing Translator Controls so that they support Windows 8.1.

"If you are a Windows Phone developer, you may already be familiar with the speech recognition inside Windows Phone: the user taps a microphone icon, speaks into the mic, and the text shows up on screen," wrote members of the Bing Dev Center team in a new blog post. "Now, that same functionality is available on Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows RT through the free Bing Speech Recognition Control."

Microsoft has been encouraging developers to license its mapping, speech, translation and various other search-related application programming interfaces (APIs) for years with mixed success. Going forward, Microsoft's pitch to developers is that they can embed not just a set of static APIs and controls, but the continuously updated logic and data powering them.

Some of Microsoft's own product teams are already using these Bing API-plus-service packages. The Bing search experience in Windows 8.1, for example, is making use of a number of the Bing APIs and controls, plus the services powering these elements. And some of the recently announced Microsoft AppEx applications — like the Health & Fitness one that's been announced for Windows 8.1 — do, as well. The Bing search engine itself is powered by these services, too, company officials said.

Don't forget, it's Bing that provides the responses when users search by voice via Kinect for movies, TV shows and music. It's Bing that's parsing the natural-language-query commands, such as "Xbox, Snap Internet Explorer." Specifically, it's the Tellme voice technology, combined with social-graph information, plus Bing's search functionality.

In other developer-focused news this week, Microsoft announced availablity of the Windows Azure software development kit (SDK) 2.2, which adds support of the final RTM release of Visual Studio 2013; integrated Azure sign-in support within Visual Studio; VS 2013 RTM VM images for MSDN subscribers; and a preview of Azure Management Libraries for .Net.

Topics: Software Development, Cloud, Emerging Tech, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Wouldn't speech recognition just be on the keyboard?

    On iOS, flyup keyboards have the mic icon.... although it is cool (as a developer) to get voice control, it is even cooler to have it without having to do anything at all.
    • Dictation....

      This could be used for dictation in legal and medical software verticals. This goes beyond the mic icon on a fly up keyboard.
      Nole Mercy
  • Waiting for Cortana..

    This is something developers were waiting for.
    • yup. Been available on other platforms for quite a while now.

      MS playing catchup again.

      Of course it has to tell MS what you are doing to get the translation...
  • to be clear

    I hear some people saying "windows is finally get speech recognition" and that's not accurate. Windows has had speech for as long as I can remember. This announcement is opening speech up to developers to embed in their Windows 8 apps. WP8 saw the ability to "deep link" speech controls into apps. For example "Urbanspoon, I am hungry." Do other platforms allow speaking to apps like this? I haven't used Android in a year or so I can't say for sure.
    • Speech Recognition is not new, just new to developer access

      Windows Mobile (previous to Windows Phone) already had speech recognition and it was remarkably good. It's not like speech recognition is new to Windows Phone, but this is just about making the API open to developers so that it can be used in 3rd party applications.
  • Actually ...

    ... they are NOT playing catch up ... just a different service. This is a new BING service. .NET developers have long had the ability to integrate speech into their apps, as this link proves. In fact, if memory serves correctly, there have been MULTIPLE competing technologies from Microsoft over the years:

    Heck, I added speech recognition in a Dialogic telephony board Visual Basic 3.0 using third party controls and such. It's not new, but is probably a lot better since it's a hosted service.
    Bob Tabor
  • speech recognition added to the keyboard?

    It would be really useful at times to have the microphone button built into the Windows Phone keyboard like I had on my gingerbread Android phone. It seems like it wouldn't be that hard for MS to add this feature to Windows Phone OS. Then we could use voice recognition in any app that takes keyboard input. I've wondered why this hasn't been implemented.