Admittedly, I used to hate Siri. Actually, I hated any form of voice input. And from the very bottom of my heart, I despised every second of having to learn and use Dragon Naturally Speaking to write an essay in the required keyboarding course in high school. Being in a room full of other students doing exactly the same thing didn't help the situation.

I remember having to sneak a few sentences in with the keyboard when the teacher wasn't looking. And I remember having to delete what seemed like half of everything I spoke because the computer had trouble catching on to my (once very thick) southern drawl. (Yes, I have an accent. Yes, it still seeps through from time to time. And, no, I do not sound like Paula Deen.)

But my more recent hatred for voice input wasn't fueled by an age-old grudge with Nuance from high school. I put that one behind me as soon as I finished the class and vowed never to use Dragon Naturally Speaking again – at least not to write an essay.

Yesterday, our own Evan Selleck asked, "Which smartphone features can you live without?" While it's easy to conjure up a long list of smartphone features and apps I can't live without, it's not so easy to come up with the ones you would be willing to give up, if push came to shove. If Android were wiped into oblivion by the dozens of patent lawsuits it is currently involved in, would you be able to live without Google's free, turn-by-turn navigation? Google Voice integration? Some other Android-specific features?

If Evan had asked that very question about a month ago, one feature would have instantly come to mind: Siri.

Like I said, I used to hate Siri. Before installing the iOS 6 beta on my iPhone, I could count the number of times I seriously used Apple's virtual assistant (not for kicks) on just one hand. Maybe two, but certainly no more than that. Since installing the beta, and trying on all of Siri's new parlor tricks, I can't say that I've necessarily used Siri a lot. But I'm definitely using it more than before.

Instead of firing up Safari or Chrome for a quick search, I sometimes consult Siri to see if it has an adequate answer first. I have used it several times to look up movie times and get quick Rotten Tomatoes ratings. And I've used it more than a few times to check the weather before heading out, although I could have probably just looked out a window to see it's insanely humid and skin-melting hot out. (Yeah, it's that bad.)

And I've actually found myself using the dictation feature in iOS a lot lately. It still misunderstands what I say quite a bit. But sometimes a quick text is easier to speak than to type, especially if I'm stuck using one hand and my iPhone is in the BookBook case. (While I love the case, the front flap can definitely be a pain and very obstructing.)

Yesterday, I finally got my hands on a Nexus 7 with Jelly Bean. One of the bigger features of the Android 4.1 update is the inclusion of Google Now, Google's automatic virtual assistant/concierge service, and improved search abilities. So far on Jelly Bean, voice input has been fantastic. I sat in bed for a solid hour last night drilling the tablet with questions. While answers weren't always what I was expecting, I can't recall a single time where it misunderstood me. It did this morning, but that could have easily been caused by my early morning groggy mumbling.

Not only has voice input improved, though. Something has changed … with me. Maybe with others, too. I no longer second guess myself when talking to my phones or tablets, not even in public. I don't even feel weird about it anymore. I just whip out the phone (or tablet) and ask a question or speak a command.

Maybe I've become that awkward nerd who sits in the corner all day at Starbucks, talking to his gadgets. Or maybe, just maybe, voice input is slowly becoming acceptable, natural or maybe even normal. I no longer wince at people asking Siri legitimate (or even really stupid) questions. And I no longer hesitate before asking one of my gadgets a question instead of typing.

Have you also noticed a change? Is voice input becoming the norm? Or am I just weird? Do you use Siri, Google Now, S Voice or some other voice-controlled assistant service? Or do you strictly stick to typing as an input method?

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