Monday, November 30, 2009

Reqall: Adding reminders to my calendar by talking into my iPhone

I have just started using Reqall on the iPhone, with the service from It's slick.

I am driving my car, and call to make an appointment with my doctor. The call ends, and I immediately run the iPhone Reqall app. Hit the plus sign, tap the surface, and say "Appointment: Dr. Stillwater on Tuesday December 8 at 7:40 AM." I tap again to signify that I'm done.

Within 15 minutes or so, my audio has been translated to English, and the English is sent back to my phone. In this case, it's letter-perfect. The translation is always close; names of people are the main stumbling block, no big deal. Reqall has versatile technology for recognizing dates and times; with the right phrase, I could add a meeting that meets on alternating weeks (!).

Back at the office, I check my Google calendar, and the doctor's appointment is in there, with the right time and date, and the right text.

I have it set up so that, by default, Reqall notifies me by email, SMS message AND by IM -- 30 minutes before an appointment. This doctor is a good ways away, so I set a reminder in Google calendar so it will send me an SMS message an hour before the appointment, giving me time to get there. Aside from the notification interval, I do not need to put reminders in my Google calendar events; Reqall picks them up, and notifies me the usual three ways. The email and IM will be important on those too-frequent days that I forget to bring my phone to work.

Hmmm: I could have just told Requal that my appointment was a 7:10 instead of 7:40.

A lite version is free; I coughed up the $25 / year for the pro version. There's a client for the iPhone and Blackberry. If you don't own either, you can use an ordinary phone and call a provided toll-free number to speak your reminders. There's a web client you can use to enter todo items and such, if you prefer to type them at your PC. You can set it up so that Requal associates you with several phones, e.g. cell / work / home. If I add my wife's cell to the list, she will be able to ask me to pick something up from the grocery by calling Reqall; she speaks, and it appears in my to-do list. I'll think on that one. ;)

A pro feature that I have yet to explore: I can tag items with locations -- and since the iPhone knows where I am at any given time -- when I go to my favorite grocery store, or Costco, Reqall will prompt me with the items I've associated with that place.

It's really too cool.

I invented this application in my brain, years ago. "Why can't a phone do voice recognition, so I can just tell it to remind me about things? And get a phone call when the event comes up?" I thought "I will buy an iPhone if it has this app" -- since the iPhone has an app for everything. I went looking, and sure enough, I found Reqall --and bought the iPhone. The voice-recognition technology was developed at MIT, apparently. Reqall does not call me to remind me, but the email and SMS notification are as good or better, given that the iPhone draws attention to itself when those messages arrive.

This app alone justifies the expense of the iPhone, for me. It's been almost impossible for me to get to dentist appointments that were made six months ago. In theory, I can put such events in Google calendar, and that does help a lot -- but I regularly fail to get such items into the calendar. No more! I can do it as I stand in the dentist's office, talking to my iPhone.

The world just keeps getting cooler.