Pushing ahead in the decades-long effort to make computers that understand human speech, Google researchers have added sophisticated voice-recognition technology to the company’s search software for the Apple iPhone.
Users of the free application can place the phone to their ear and ask virtually any question, such as: “Where’s the nearest Starbucks?” or “How tall is Mount Everest?” The sound is converted to a digital file and sent to Google’s servers, which try to determine the words spoken and pass them along to the Google search engine.
The search results, which may be displayed in seconds on a fast wireless network, will at times include local information, taking advantage of iPhone features that let it determine its location.
The ability to recognise just about any phrase from any person has long been the supreme goal of artificial-intelligence researchers looking for ways to make man-machine interactions more natural. Systems that can do this have recently started making their way into commercial products.
And of course what would a good Apple story be without the Apple2.0 take on it.
For tech bloggers, this was bigger than Obama.
How else to explain the reaction Friday to John Markoff’s story in the New York Times about Google (GOOG) bringing voice activation to the iPhone, letting you search for everything from pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge to the length of a giant squid just by talking into your phone?
Markoff’s story was the No. 1 item all day on the Techmeme news aggregator, and by the time it was over more than three dozen tech writers had weighed in, from AppleInsider’s Katie Marsal to Eric Zeman’s Phone Scoop. Seth Weintraub posted a video. Several reporters spoke of it in the past tense, as if they had already had the program in hand.
So where is Google Voice Search?
and yet another video, let’s hope they are right. When I lived in Vancouver talking with a Kiwi accent (yes it is the Queen’s English!) to any automated voice recognition telephone service required me putting on my worst rural Tennessee meets Jewish New York accent to get any results.