This post is about setting up and using a cell phone completely hands-free. While it is heavily tailored for those with high-level disabilities it could also be very useful for anyone looking to use a cell phone hands-free while driving.
Okay, so I’ve finally found a totally hands-free way to use my Samsung Galaxy S3 by replacing the stock S-Voice with Dragon Mobile Assistant. As mentioned in my previous post, CALL TO ACTION – Completely Hands-Free Cell Phone?!? there are a couple hangups with the standard Samsung S-Voice and Android Google Now/Voice Dialer options that require the occasional home screen or Bluetooth keypress that keep them from being a viable completely hands-free solution. Dragon Mobile Assistant addresses these issues and provides a truly hands-free solution that will provide high-level quadriplegics like myself, and others with disabilities that keep them from using their hands with a true way to access their phone using only voice.
Couple caveats to keep in mind…
Complete hands-free operation quickly drained your cell phone battery. Any time you need complete hands-free response that means the device needs to be listening to you all the time. For a device that’s plugged in this is not a problem, but for a cell phone the added drain can quickly deplete the battery within hours. For my Samsung Galaxy S3 with the Dragon Mobile Assistant set to Driving Mode (always listening) that means my battery was completely drained in just over 4 hours. For this to be a viable option an upgraded battery pack or the ability to directly connect the cell phone to a wall outlet/wheelchair battery is a must.
Dragon Mobile Assistant is still in beta (under development) so there are likely to be some changes and hopefully improvements. This is a big thing here, the software is still under active development, so I hope that means it’ll see continued improvement and better integration with Android. There are a number of things that don’t seem to work exactly right, particularly when using this software with a Bluetooth headset, but if you’re using this strictly as a hands-free phone those won’t be a problem. I’ll discuss my issues at the bottom of this post. Hopefully someone from Dragon will take note of my suggestions, and even better let me be a formal tester for their products. I’ll draft up an email/make some phone calls to see!
Samsung S-Voice is tightly integrated with my Samsung Galaxy S3 and required a number of steps to disable/deactivate. This was a major hurdle I had to overcome, and at first provided the very laughable scenario of two female virtual assistants fighting for my attention. Before disabling S-Voice I could get into scenarios where both S-Voice and Dragon Mobile Assistant would be listening for me and trying to do different things. As you can imagine, sometimes two females competing over the same man don’t exactly have the desired results, so one had to go.
So you decided to go all in with Dragon Mobile Assistant… Here are the steps to make it happen.
Installing Dragon Mobile Assistant and Going Hands-Free
- Install Dragon Mobile Assistant from the Google Play store.
- Disable S-Voice home button double tap by:
- Open S-VOICE
- Press MENU button at bottom left, then SETTINGS
- Uncheck “Open Via the Home Key”
- There is a good video of this step here
- Completely disable S-Voice application by:
- Go to SETTINGS -> APPLICATION MANAGER -> ALL PROGRAMS
- Click S-VOICE, then click DISABLE
- Open Dragon Mobile Assistant
- Press MENU button at the bottom left, then SETTINGS
- Click “Background wake-up” ***this is the option that causes Dragon to always listen for “Hi Dragon” and is hugely important for hands-free operation.
- Press the BACK button at the bottom right to go back to the Dragon screen, then click the small steering wheel icon on the bottom left of the screen to activate DRIVING MODE .
And now you’re completely hands-free!
All you need to do at this point is say “Hi Dragon” and then you can say a whole range of commands, from anything like “Call Home” to “Text John I’ll see you at 9 tonight” to “Set an alarm four 7 AM” to “What are the directions to the library” among a huge list of other things. You can say “What can I say” to get a detailed list of the many possibilities. Even better is the Dragon Mobile Assistant blog which demonstrates most all of the commands with picture and video.
Here is a silly product promo video of the product in action… Wonder if it could help me pick up chicks like this guy!
Super excited I’ve finally found a completely hands-free way to use an Android cell phone. I hope what I’ve written can help some of you higher-level quads or other folks have more mobility/accessibility with your cell phones. Where the software is still in its beta stages and electronics can sometimes be flaky PLEASE DON’T USE THIS AS YOUR ONLY MEANS TO GET OUTSIDE HELP IF YOU REALLY NEED IT! I always plan on a number of backups/redundancies in case one of my ways to get help decides not to work.
I’ve used Dragon Mobile Assistant extensively over the past several days with very good success. It does what I need, understands my voice accurately, and overall works very well. It will be the solution I use every night when I Velcro my phone to the underneath of the shelf directly over my head and set it to “Driving Mode” so I can have a completely hands-free way to call out at night. There are still several things to fix, especially in Bluetooth mode, but I recommend it to any of you who’d like an option to use your cell phone completely hands-free.
And the issues I noticed with Dragon Mobile Assistant
- Always uses your phone’s speaker/microphone even if you have a Bluetooth headset paired. This doesn’t make sense, if I have a Bluetooth headset paired to my phone it would only make sense that the virtual assistant listens/speaks to me using this headset. At the very least, a long keypress of my Bluetooth headset will initiate Dragon Mobile Assistant and my phone’s internal microphone is accurate enough to dial out the right number, and then the phone call gets transferred to my Bluetooth, but this back and forth doesn’t make sense.
- I can get Dragon Mobile Assistant to start listening with a Bluetooth long keypress, but there is no way to get it to stop listening to me. With normal Bluetooth dialers you press and hold to activate the voice dialing, and if you change your mind you press and hold to stop dialing. This is not how it works with Dragon Mobile Assistant. Pressing and holding the Bluetooth activates Dragon Mobile Assistant and it doesn’t stop listening until you ask it the program.
- A Bluetooth long press does not bypass the lock screen, and if I remove the lock screen it waits for the words “Hi Dragon” to be activated. I had to deactivate my lock screen to get Dragon Mobile Assistant to work on a Bluetooth long keypress, and still, after activating it doesn’t start listening right away, but waits for me to say “Hi Dragon”. If I’m using a Bluetooth headset it should instantly start working after a Bluetooth long keypress.
Hey Mike, very interesting information. Makes me think about how I could even use this. Love the humor you throw in as well. I appreciate the time and effort you put in to sharing information on all sorts of technology. I know you really do your research so I trust the information you provide and find it quite interesting. Thanks
Thanks Janet! Lots of great/fun/interesting technology out there for me to figure out and get working. I only hope by doing so I make it more accessible and easier for others to use! Plus it gives me something to blabber about 🙂
Thanks for the work you are doing. I wish there was a manual for new quads with all the best adaptive devices available 🙁 I want to use a Bluetooth earpiece but can’t press the button on the earpiece. The magnet device is an option for sure, but does this dragon option turn the earpiece on/off for you? I didn’t quite get that from the article. Have you heard anything about using Google Talk? A guy told us you just turn the earpiece on and Google Talk allows him to take and place calls voice-activated, without having to press the earpiece each time. I cant find anything online about that. Thanks for your time!
Thanks for the message! I’m trying to get as much information out there for all us quads, but it seems like lately I’ve barely had enough time to keep up with emails/comments… Silly me on committing to so many projects!
The darn stinky thing about Dragon Mobile Assistant ,Google Talk, Samsung S-Voice, pretty much all of the mobile assistant type software/apps out there is they all need a button push; either to initiate the listening, hang up the phone, or some critically important operation that makes the “hands-free operation” unusable for those of us who actually can’t use our hands.
I have used Google Talk plenty and find that it’s super accurate to write texts/call people from my address book, etc., but again I need that button press to turn the earpiece on/off and to activate/deactivate Google Talk.
Right now, the only workable option I’ve found is the headset with the magnetic switch. Kind of a shame because the technology is there within our smart phones, but obviously the market is in not enough for someone to develop a proper Hands-Free solution.
Let me know if you come up with any cool technology stuff I should look into and I’ll do my best to research and get the information out there to others.
I came across your name while doing some research for myself. I am in search of the elusive, totally handsfree way to use my iPhone 5c independently. I am a quadriplegic and use a head array to drive my power wheelchair. Earpieces are tricky to use because of my head array. Any info that you have will be greatly appreciated.
Thanks, Mike for the very informative suggestions. I’m new to the Samsung S3 and wanted to learn more about hands free options. Your blog offers the best tips that I’ve found. Thanks for sharing in an easy to follow way. Lynn
Glad to share!
Thanks for the information…….so far I’m loving the totally hand-free option, I’m looking forward to improvements.
Hey there Lotus, been several months since you first started using this… I’ve been away working on different things/projects. Any chance you found any improvements?
I was wondering if you are able to hang up a call. Let’s say you call the wrong person or the person you wanna talk to doesn’t answer. What “keyword” do you use?
This is the major problem… there is no keyword/way to hang up the phone by voice, so it makes the software a completely unusable solution for anyone that needs true hands-free operation. Luckily for me I don’t, but still, this needs to be an option. I’m trying to connect with the Dragon product development team but so far haven’t found the right person to make improvements. I’ll keep trying!
I am very interested in the hands free Samsung galaxy with the dragon mobile assistant – I am a quad and home alone for periods of thine throughout the day and even at nights. I am really needing something totally hands free – this appears to be close to what I am looking for. Is there any more feedback as to how it is working for you and or others – would love to hear more!
Thank you for this very informative post !
I have a iPhone 3GS and am trying to find a way to make it completely handsfree . I don’t suppose you have any advice ?
Sorry not a bit of help with the iPhone… A bit of a Apple hater myself so no experience with their devices. Beautiful hardware, but can’t handle how locked down they make their ecosystem.
Really like Dragon, but it won’t make phone calls through Bluetooth. Any suggestions
Looks like I missed this post forever ago, but Dragon Mobile Assistant does make phone calls through Bluetooth now. Are you having any luck with it?
I’m just wondering…I just picked up my new Galaxy 3. In order to use S Voice, I have to confirm and “accept” the terms of agreement. If I never activate this software, do I still need to follow step two and step three? I have used Dragon Dictation with my old phone…My Touch 4G Slide…and I loved the hands free option and the accuracy of the software. Needless to say, I was very thankful to find your post as I was really concerned about giving up that software! Thank you for your time. Melissa
Not sure, I would suspect that if you do not confirm and “accept” the terms of agreement for S-Voice that it might just keep asking you over and over again until you to. Easy enough to just go in there and disable the program and then use Home2 Shortcut so that a double tap of the home button launches Dragon Mobile Assistant.
I have read your information regarding Dragon Mobile Assistant and am very interested in trying to use that as I am high lesion quad. I had a bit of a stupid question. I live in Canada so will it work with a Canadian bought phone. I am not very good with technology from reading your instructions and going to Google play I am assuming that you hook the phone up to the computer and download it instead of a program you buy. I hope you understand my rambling and what I’m looking for. Thanks