(Reuters) - Nuance launched software to allow smartphone owners to input text using a combination of tapping, tracing, handwriting and speaking, as consumers increasingly demand technology that learns from them rather than the other way around.
The new platform will be available from Wednesday for makers of phones based on Google's Android software, which has raced ahead of Nokia and Apple to become the world's most popular smartphone operating system.
Google owes its success to the fact that its software is freely distributed, attracting a vibrant community of developers and helping phone makers like Samsung and Motorola respond fast to changes in technology and demand.
Nuance said some phone makers had already begun implementing the new Swype platform, which combines keyboard technology acquired when it bought the company Swype last year with its market-leading Dragon voice-recognition software.
Makers of non-Android phones - like BlackBerry maker Research in Motion and Nokia, which has bet its future on Microsoft Windows software - will be able to use a software developer kit from Nuance to make their own versions.
"Some can be as quick as two months. Others can take a year," said Brian Yee, director of mobile input for Nuance, which is also widely believed to power Apple's iPhone Siri voice-activated personal organizer.
Nuance says only that it licenses some of its technology to some Apple products. Apple is notoriously secretive about its technology partners, and often binds them to confidentiality agreements.
The new Swype platform will learn from user behavior, adding words entered via the keyboard to a personal dictionary that will then be deployed across the spectrum of input types, which includes tracing the shapes of words, and handwriting.
Nuance's public dictionary currently holds 300,000 words in English and supports 50 languages for text and 35 for voice.
Much of the technology involved was originally invented for users with disabilities, and Clive Kushler, inventor of the T9 predictive text system for mobile phones, is now working on technology for users with visual impairments for Nuance.
Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter