After almost 9 years of development, SoundHound finally released Hound – its voice search app, a couple of months ago, and it has been making waves since then.
The SoundHound name would be familiar to most users who have been using this wildly popular music recognition app to listen to and decipher which music is playing or even being hummed.
The Hound app is still in beta, and available in the US only, and a friend over there had downloaded it and was raving about it, although it did seem to crash more often than desired. Another friend in India who downloaded it said the same, and it seemed to be messing up with the Contacts as well.
I was curious to see how it performed, so downloaded the app a couple of weeks ago and requested an invite. Frankly, I was expecting one to arrive after a long time, but I got the notification quite soon and decided to pit it against Google Now.
Having seen two friends have problems with app crashes and mismanagement of contacts, the first thing I did while setting it up was to uncheck the ‘Sync your contacts’ and the ‘Enable contact integration’ options.
I started off with some really random whodunit / conspiracy type of queries just for the heck of it, and both Hound and Google Now responded in a predictable manner – as expected 😀
Hound took slightly longer for the next set of queries that were more localised, although it finally picked up “Pune” and returned similar results; better than Google Now in the case of ‘population of Pune’ and more generic w.r.t ‘traffic between Pune and Mumbai’.
The next set of queries were again off-beat ones, and I was slightly surprised that Google Now didn’t return the exact result of the mathematical calculation (it usually does). Hound being completely unable to correlate Wimbledon with tennis was odd, and the reply stumped me. The Chuck Norris one is an old Google-search joke though it was interesting to see Hound throw up related music tracks in response.
Seeing the music tracks in the previous case prompted me to try some music based queries, and here Hound’s response was quicker and better than Google Now on both occasions. On being asked to play Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’, it immediately began doing so, whereas Google Now prompted me for an app with which to play the song. Likewise, when I was listening to ‘High Hopes’, absolutely no surprises here at Hound being able to recognise the song but Google Now’s response took me aback. Quite apt, considering which song it was :p
Hound is an extremely capable app. Users already on Android, iOS and Windows Phone will be familiar with its existing competitors – Google Now, Siri and Cortana respectively, and although Hound isn’t integrated with the OS like these three are, it is extremely fast, intuitive and can very well hold its own against this trio. The Hound company demo below (although seemingly a tad unrealistic) gives an idea of the app’s capabilities. There are several videos around of these apps going head to head in real-time which you can look up here, here and even one which shows all four together.
It is still in beta as I previously mentioned, and US-only for now, so several queries on local / other Indian cities, hotels and restaurants, weather, hotels, streets, or even share prices on local stock exchanges didn’t work as meant to, which was to be expected. However, it is a quick learner, seeing the above – considering that during initial use, it couldn’t even understand ‘Pune’ at all. As I hadn’t enabled integration of contacts, I couldn’t try voice calling or texting people in my address book or any other function that needed Contacts.
If you’re in the US or use a VPN, you can download it from the Play Store, and there’s an iOS version also in the works. Alternately, you can head over to the APK Mirror site and sideload the latest apk from there. Either way, you still need to request an invite to be able to use it.