Google Presents iPhone Users With Voice-Powered Internet Search

November 17, 2008 0

San Francisco — Google is finally advancing over its arch rivals Microsoft and Yahoo for once. The search engine goliath is reportedly rolling out its complimentary voice-recognition technology for search on Apple Inc.’s iPhone, that allows users to conduct searches with their voice rather than typing.

Google has worked persistently in designing an operating system for mobile phones, called Android. The Apple App Store was anticipated to get hold of the free application before devices running Google’s own Android mobile platform. The operating system designed is to be applied on HTC’s G1 phone, which is known as an impending “iPhone killer.

An article that appeared in The New York Times stated the software could be available at iTunes online store as early as Friday.

The New York Times provided snap-shots of Google employees Vic Gundotra and Gummi Hafsteinsoon using an iPhone for a voice search. A search query from an iPhone user is transformed into a digital file, sent to Google Search, and an answer can come back in seconds.

Google is entering into the voice-recognition technology field with its arch rivals Microsoft and Yahoo, which already let people using “smart” phones search the Web with spoken queries.

The search giant presently offers a toll-free “GOOG411” telephone service in the United States that lets people to speak to a computer system that fetches contact information they seek.

“This is like spreading out the types of applications Google has already been developing,” said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. “Google has GOOG411, which is the underlying technical engine. They also have a voice-search client for the BlackBerry which is limited to maps. So this is an evolutionary step.”

The iPhone application will be Google’s first project into voice-based Internet search. Google in 2006 obtained a US patent for a system that “provides search results from a voice based search query.”

“Current speech recognition technology has high word error rates for large vocabulary sizes,” Google wrote in the patent application.

Although the speech recognition technology is not new, Microsoft and Yahoo both have delivered voice-enabled search for some time — Microsoft via its “TellMe” service, and Yahoo via its “oneSearch” service. Both work remarkably well at converting speech into text and delivering relevant results. This is a feature that Google’s services have lacked for too long.

Yahoo embedded voice recognition into its oneSearch mobile Internet service this year that enables users to perform “wide open” searches by speaking questions. Microsoft added voice to its Live Search mobile service last year.

“Voice search can be particularly effective on connected devices, since it can take advantage of network-based speech technology and data resources,” organizers of a Voice Search Conference in California say on their website.

“One can just speak what one wants, much like talking to a personal assistant, and have any ambiguity resolved by a quick dialogue or a display of alternative results.”

Google has also implemented options for those who do not wish to use their voice but who would rather type in their searches. The software can also be operated through the virtual keyboard that is displayed on the screen of Apple’s iPhone.

Voice recognition technology has come very far off in the past several years. Companies such as Nuance Communications provide speech-recognition services to a number of cellular network operators around the globe as well as software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Nuance has one of the world’s largest collections of human utterances in multiple languages and accents, which help it to return more accurate results.

“This is an evolutionary step in the whole realm of voice search,” Sterling said. “So far it has not proven to be the killer app for mobile, but it is getting there and it is very useful in selective situations.”  

The application will be available free of cost for iPhone users. Google did not mentioned if or when it will bring a similar service to other mobile platforms.

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