Speech input is finding its way into more and more mobile devices and apps. Dragon Dictation for iOS came out in December 2008 and is probably the best way for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch users to speak into their devices and have it turned into text. The dictated text can then be pasted into other apps. Perhaps future versions of iOS will include speech-to-text across all apps.
iOS's rival mobile operating system, Android, introduced a voice-enabled keyboard with version 2.1. Any time the keyboard is on the screen, Android users can simply tap the speech input icon (or swipe across the keyboard) and then say what they want typed. The device displays the spoken words on the screen.
An app that takes advantage of speech input is the Merriam Dictionary app for iOS and Android. Users can search words by voice. This means that you don't have to know how to spell a word to look it up! The app also will pronounce the word, provides synonyms and antonyms, and contains sample sentences. Unfortunately, the free app also contains advertisements.
An even more amazing app that features speech input is Google Translate for iOS and Android. The app translates words and phrases from more than 50 languages. For many languages, you can speak your phrases and hear the corresponding translations. Not only could this be useful for learning a language, but it could be a helpful communication tool for teachers, students, and parents who speak different languages. Translations can be displayed full screen by holding the device in landscape. Tapping a translation gives you the option to copy the text for use in other apps. As the comments to this post indicate, beware when relying on technology to communicate. You may not be expressing what you actually mean or the translation could turn out to be gibberish or offensive.
Of course, for speech input to work your device must have a microphone. Those with older iPod touches without built-in microphones can use Apple Earbuds with Microphone or very affordable mics from Amazon and DealExtreme. (sorry first generation iPod cannot use any kind of microphone). Going forward, pretty much all mobile devices will have built-in microphones because of features like speech input.