LipSurf – Speech Recognition Extension for Google Chrome

LipSurf is a Google Chrome extension originally conceived as hands-free way to access YouTube
(because its developer was eating a buttery naan at the time and didn’t want to touch the
keyboard). From these humble and mundane beginnings LipSurf has grown into a surprisingly robust
speech recognition solution. There are three pricing tiers start with free (nice), $3 a month for plus
and $6 a month for premium. You get quite a bit of functionality on just the free level. 100
commands and access to community plugins (more on this later). To click links you either say “click
<text of link>” or you can use the Tag feature. The tag feature is similar to that on most other speech
recognition applications. Each clickable element gets a two letter tag, you then say “click ag” where
ag is the tag. I found that for the most part the tags worked okay but it does depend on the website.
I also think perhaps numbers rather than letters would have been a better option for tags as they
tend to be recognized more accurately by speech recognition. You also have the option to have
LipSurf constantly listening or you can set a hotkey to enable it. I’ve noticed that when using the
hotkey you need to keep it pressed until the command has been recognized for it to work (indicated
by the word being highlighted). The main limitations of the free version are around text entry and
going to specific URL however with the ability to click any link along with the scroll (and particularly
auto-scroll) command give quite good hands free functionality. Also, some web services like Gmail
and YouTube have a range of commands to facilitate navigation. Finally there are the community
plugins. These are third party plugins contributed by the LipSurf community to support navigation on
particular sites. The Plus Tier costs $3 a month and adds hands free functionality to language
learning apps Duolingo and WaniKani and well as email and phone support. While this may not seem
like much extra, Duolingo is a very popular service and hands free access would make it both more
accessible and engaging. This could make it a tempting upgrade for some. The Premium Tier
however is probably of most interest for those who want to use speech recognition as their primary
computer access method. With premium you get to turn recognition on with a wake word rather
than hotkey, you can go directly to any url using speech recognition (Hey LipSurf, go to and you also have dictation and text expansion capabilities.

In the demo video above I have tested LipSurf using an Andrea NC-181 USB headset and found it to
be quite good. Although if I was relying on Speech Recognition as my primary means of computer
access, as an Assistive Technology on a Windows computer, I would spend the extra money and get
Dragon Professional. On a ChromeBook however it might well be the best option available. The free
tier is certainly worth trying to see if it suits your needs.

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