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Google Is Taking Spoken Questions 94

The New York Times is reporting that Google has added a voice interface to their iPhone search software. Expected to make its debut as early as Friday, users will be able to speak into their phone and ask any question they could type into Google's search engine. The audio will be digitized and results will be returned via the normal search interface. "Google is by no means the only company working toward more advanced speech recognition capabilities. So-called voice response technology is now routinely used in telephone answering systems and in other consumer services and products. These systems, however, often have trouble with the complexities of free-form language and usually offer only a limited range of responses to queries."
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Google Is Taking Spoken Questions

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 14, 2008 @05:21PM (#25765573)

    The response to popular Slashdotter question, "where can I get laid?":

    404 - Page Not Found

  • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter&slashdot,2006,taronga,com> on Friday November 14, 2008 @05:23PM (#25765593) Homepage Journal

    If I could get good voice transcription on my computer by installing Google Desktop, THAT would make it worthwhile.

    Something for iPhone users? I could care less.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You "couldn't" care less. If you "could" care less then you would actually care.

    • by YourExperiment ( 1081089 ) on Friday November 14, 2008 @05:38PM (#25765753)

      Something for iPhone users? I could care less.

      Really? I honestly couldn't care less, but it's nice to know someone out there is taking an interest.

    • by spydabyte ( 1032538 ) on Friday November 14, 2008 @05:42PM (#25765799)
      I think you should care. Just because google decided to start with a single platform doesn't mean it'll remain that way.

      So they got rid of dealing with different platforms and stuck to a single one to focus on the algorithms behind voice recognition. Sounds like a good plan to me.
      Hopefully they'll extend it to other platforms if it works well with the iPhone.

      The iPhone seems like a more practical platform as well. It's designed for on the go and use of voice. Your desktop? Not so much.
      • My desktop doesn't have nearly as much vendor lock-in as an Apple iPhone and the carrier(s) they currently see fit to mandate approved use on.

        In case you didn't realize it...Google *is* the platform. The hardware will transmogrify around Google.

      • yea, i think phone-based applications are much more suited to voice recognition than most desktop apps. unless you're physically disabled and thus cannot use a keyboard/mouse, it would be much easier to use conventional input devices on a desktop computer. whereas on a phone it's more convenient to speak your commands rather than having to remove the phone from you ear, type on it, and then replace the phone every time input is required.

        another interesting application for a robust voice recognition system w

        • whereas on a phone it's more convenient to speak your commands

          You're missing the point of my message. This is not about voice commands, which I agree are daft: I've got a phone with voice command support and it's a LOT more convenient to hit "5" than to say "delete" and have it respond with "saved". This is about voice transcription. Completely different problem space.

      • by eihab ( 823648 )

        Yea, I'm really looking forward to this, especially if they use the same algorithms GOOG-411 uses, that would be sweet!

        User: Hey, where's a burger kind around here?

        *Light bulb over head*

        User (excited): I know! let's call GOOG-411 and get the address and punch it in the GPS navigator!!

        [User calls]

        Google: Calls may be recorded.
        Google: GOOG-411. What city and State?
        User: San Francisco, California
        Google: San Francisco, California
        Google: What business name or category?
        *Hungry toddler starts crying in the car*
        Google: Starting over
        Google: What city and state?
        User: $@$!@!
        User: San Francisco, California! Shut up son!
        Google: What business name or category?
        User: Burger king
        Google: Burner king, top listing..
        *Kid crys a bit more*
        Google: Starting over
        User: $@!$!@$@!!@
        Google: What city and state?
        Google: San Francisco, California
        Google: What business na..
        User: BURGER F#@king KING *kid hungry and still crying*
        Google: Kabob King, top listing..
        User: $@$$@%!

        [Hang up]
        *User calms kid down, and calls back*

        Google: Calls may be recorded
        Google: GOOG-411. What city and state?
        *User a little calmer*
        User: San Fran.. (Kid starts crying again).. cisco, California
        Google: San Mateo, California
        User: %#@%@#^@%$##!

        [Hang up]

        Google: Calls may be recorded
        Google: GOOG-411. What city and state?
        User: San Francisco, California
        Google: San Francisco, California
        Google: What business name or category?
        User: Burger king
        Google: Burger king, top listing: Burger king ..
        [Bunch of listings far far away from users' location]
        User: #%@%@#^!#

        *Another light bulb over user's head*

        [Hang up]

        Google: Calls may be recorded.
        Google: GOOG-411. What city and state?
        User: Nine-four-seven-one-two-three
        Google: Please only say the name of the city and state
        User: @#$**%%#@$^#&%$^*&^@#!!!!

        [Hang up]

        User: Fsck it, we're having Chinese from the first fscking restaurant around the corner!

        *Note: City and business name where obfuscated to protect the innocent.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by eihab ( 823648 )

          Please excuse the typos, I was *very* frustrated when I was typing this!

      • Google has refined their voice recognition system using Google 411 and Google Maps mobile for a while now.

        If you want to try it call 1-800-GOOG-411.

        I've noticed it has become far more accurate over the year or so I've used it. For now it's free and there are no advertisements so give it a try.
    • you dont see value in creating a good service even if you are not gaining anything from it?

      thats a little short sighted
    • by Tom ( 822 ) on Friday November 14, 2008 @06:01PM (#25766045) Homepage Journal

      Something for iPhone users? I could care less.

      Ok, maybe that's because I am an iPhone user, but I do care. See, on my desk I have this nifty input device called a keyboard. Works pretty well for me, I can type at slow speaking speed.

      But the iPhone keyboard isn't suited for that very much. It's a lot better than any other phone keypad I've used so far, but still, typing is slow and more error-prone. So yes, a fairly reliable speech recognition would be much welcome. Also because I sometimes use it away from the desk, you know, and I might not have both hands free.

      So let's see if they can do it for Google search. If that works, I'm sure more apps will follow. And I don't need 100% reliability when most of what I'd use it for is notes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by argent ( 18001 )

        Works pretty well for me, I can type at slow speaking speed.

        Yep, I can talk a lot faster than I can type too. That's why I'd be excited if Google would release this goldarn software for the rest of us.

        My point isn't "oh noes, this is for the iPhone", it's "why don't they let more than just iPhone users take advantage of this, dagnabbit?"

        • Seriously, calm down. Did they say that this was an iPhone exclusive anywhere? Why are you assuming that this will be only for the iPhone, instead of merely first for the iPhone? Unless they very carefully synchronize development on all target platforms, something which simply isn't worth the effort, then some platform must be first. Why not the one which is getting all the press and hype at the moment?

        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by His Shadow ( 689816 )
          "why don't they let more than just iPhone users take advantage of this, dagnabbit?"

          For the same reasons all the nerds despise the iPhone: because of it's uniformity right across the board, powerful graphics and CPU and consistent user experience. If you want to debut a powerful application, the iPhone makes the most sense of any platform. And given the fractured nature of every other vendors offerings, why ruin the experiment on crappy inconsistent platforms? Go with the best, someday release for the rest

          • by argent ( 18001 )

            For the same reasons all the nerds despise the iPhone: because of it's uniformity right across the board, powerful graphics and CPU and consistent user experience.

            Oh you mean like the Macintosh?

  • I've encountered a number of systems that take voice input, mainly banks. Total fail if I'm at work, sitting in a room full of computer fans. Outside, any traffic, river, plane or bird noise and it's no-go either. I hate these systems with a passion and try to avoid them where possible. I always complain to the people who decided to use these stupid input methods.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      i've used a few voice input systems for paying cellphone bills over the phone, and they've always worked decently in my experience. however, my dad, who has a pretty heavy accent, doesn't get the same results as i do, which is why i have to pay his phone bills for him.

      i guess it just depends on the implementation. i find voice inputs to be far more convenient than touch tone systems for over the phone payment systems. they're easier to navigate, feel more natural, and definitely work much better than T-Mobi

  • by rehtonAesoohC ( 954490 ) on Friday November 14, 2008 @05:24PM (#25765625) Journal
    Let's hope Google doesn't try to publicly demonstrate this like Microsoft did [youtube.com] for Vista Speech Recognition!

    "Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all"

    • They introduce web-based voice search years ago. I remember trying it on their Labs site as far back as 2002.

      You'd call an 800#, speak your query, and a results page on your browser woudl refresh automatically w/ the results.

      Google's MO is all due dilligence. Seems like they waited for this tech to mature before they rolled it out.

    • Nothing can beat perl script voice recognition [youtube.com].

  • However... (Score:4, Funny)

    by frank_adrian314159 ( 469671 ) on Friday November 14, 2008 @05:24PM (#25765627) Homepage

    ... it seems to translate every question into "My hovercraft is full of eels! [youtube.com]"

  • We're one step closer to the replicator.
    • I wonder how the computer can differentiate between coke and other similarly sounding words...

  • I remember that early on in the Google Android SDK releases there was mention of voice recognition, and I was sorry to see it go in the final release. Perhaps this means we'll soon see voice recognition re-introduced to Android?
    • That would be very useful for Android developers if they could use Google's speech recognition in their own apps.

      I would like to see a Google phone RPG where one of the characters calls you and has a "conversation" with you, perhaps asking you to perform some task in RL. (GPS and the camera could be used to automatically confirm that the task has been accomplished in RL.)

      • I get the impression that the iPhone app uses server side voice recognition. The digital audio is sent to the servers, it is processed and the results are sent to the search engine, and then the results are transferred to the user. Doing the VR on the server is great for this use case because you're already querying the server for the search request. Google can process the audio in an efficient server farm rather than on the resource constrained phone. They can also easily upgrade their algorithms after the
    • by xant ( 99438 )

      Android does have voice recognition, and it's marginally useful. I was able to call my wife and a few of my favorite contacts on day 1 without training it. However, it cheats a little by strongly favoring your most-used contacts, which it knows because I've been a gmail user for a long time.

      It doesn't seem to apply to any other part of the OS, not that I'd particularly want it to.

      • well, i guess that isn't pure "voice recognition," but it seems like a smart cheat. this isn't a sports competition where abiding by the rules is paramount or even means anything. technologies should be judged by their usefulness, which means measuring them by the results they give, not by how those results were achieved.

        and if you think about it, people often use the same trick when interpreting speech. gestalt theory states that human perception is a cognitive process as much as it is a sensory process. i

  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Friday November 14, 2008 @05:34PM (#25765717) Journal
    Is there any possible way I could be more lazy?
    • Ah, but if you try that you'll find this very post is the very first hit for "Is there any possible way I could be more lazy?" Infinite loop.

  • "Uh, Japanese girls exchanging bodily fluids? Click."

    Come on...It's not that obscure of a pop reference...I'm sure someone gets it...
  • "We will ask Dr. Know. There is nothing he doesn't." --A.I.

  • Android. (Score:1, Troll)

    by Trespass ( 225077 )

    So, did you roll it out because you lost a bet or what?

  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Friday November 14, 2008 @05:38PM (#25765755)

    Be kind of awkward sitting in your manager's office explaining that you weren't surfing pr0n, just telling your phone to fuck off.

  • Google has something called a "Phone Search" [google.co.in] here. They provide a toll-free number, which you can call and feed it with queries and make it read out the results.

    They even have an option to send a particular result via sms to your phone.

    Its still in Google Labs though

  • by Phat_Tony ( 661117 ) on Friday November 14, 2008 @05:42PM (#25765807)
    Electronics are on a 50+ year run of continuously shrinking, but you can't do much more shrinking with our current user interface schemes. You could make an iPhone as thin as a credit card, but that's only a few "doublings" away from its current state, and then what? Making it smaller in either of the other two dimensions is just going to decrease its functionality.

    But eyeglasses can have a heads up display. And in the magical world of tomorrow, maybe contact lenses can have a wireless interface and a high-resolution superimposed display. And of course there's wireless headphones. So those are potential conduits of information from machines to us, but how do we talk to the machines? If we're walking around, how do we dial the phone or ask for directions or tell the computer what YouTube clip we want to watch, if the heart of the thing can be the size of a penny?

    I think it's going to be verbal. Short of the development of neural interface implants or that sort of thing, I think verbal's going to become a primary interface for mobile electronics. I think the chip that stores everything and wirelessly talks to the outside world and "makes it go" can be anywhere- wristwatch, glasses, tie clip, belt buckle. Whatever. But the thing's going to have to listen to you, so it can understand when you say "Show me the closest three book stores. Do any of them have a physical copy of Into The Nano Era, Moore's Law Beyond Planar Silicon?" Or "play my running playlist on random," or that sort of thing. Not strong AI, but good voice recognition coupled with really dramatically improved ability to parse and interpret commands from speech. I'm sure we'd need a couple of buttons or a knob or slider or such somewhere for things like volume that you just don't want to do with voice. But it strikes me that most of what people do on their iPhones, except for playing games, could be done quite well via voice, and then you don't need to lug around and pull out some physical gadget and stare at its screen and peck at it with your fingers.
  • I like the idea... (Score:3, Informative)

    by StrategicIrony ( 1183007 ) on Friday November 14, 2008 @05:51PM (#25765925)

    I actually like this.

    As long as the speech-to-text is reasonably accurate, it will do what I want.

    I hate driving and having to type something into google to figure out and address or phone number.

    If i could say it, even if it was only close to accurate, it would be safer and save me some headache.

    Now I just need an iPhone. LOL.

  • by Ron Bennett ( 14590 ) on Friday November 14, 2008 @05:52PM (#25765927) Homepage

    Representative, Representative, Representative ... Operator, Operator, Operator ... Help, Help, Help ... (hangup in disgust)

    Hope google has better luck with this than others have.


  • Why only iPhone? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tyr_7BE ( 461429 )

    Just curious, but why only support iPhone? Why not Nokia/WinMo/Blackberry - ie, the other 99% of cell phones out there with voice recognition capabilities? Why single out one phone?

  • I think they are letting the iPhone users alpha test for their beta which will be on the Android platform.

    I would say that iPhone is the beta, but this is Google. Nothing makes it out of beta.

  • Skip the speech part and interface to the frontal lobes. Google can then spider the mind of the human race, and with the query interface we will have achieved the final fate of mankind - a hive mind.

  • The "Italian in Malta" joke comes to mind: http://9527.net/archives/2005/12/29/16/ [9527.net]
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Friday November 14, 2008 @06:12PM (#25766155) Homepage Journal
    so I will be able to keep my hands free...for other....things....
    • by 4D6963 ( 933028 )
      Wow, you mean, you need two hands for that? *humbly bows* I bet those e-mails about "self-improvement over elongation" give you a good chuckle, don't they?
  • Since it's only application is on the iPhone...
  • Remember the days when you sat in your cellar, hacking away at your code by the melancholy light of your 15-inch monitor? Your fingers tapping each key in a... rough, but wonderfully familar way.
    What speech recognition creates is a world where you can go jogging while hacking away verbally! Oo"
    Yes, its only google now, but just wait until we have voice-controlled emacs!
    Sentimental programmers unite to preserve your traditional tools!
  • Has it been long enough to forget Ask Jeeves yet?

  • This whole thing falls in the "it's challenging, but we think we can get to it, with difficulty, even if once we get there no-one will actually want to use that when the novelty effect will have (quickly) worn off" category.

    Who wants to use voice recognition, and for what? Who wants to see the person they're talking to on the phone on a screen? Who wants to turn the lights on by clapping their hands? And so on..

    • by pbhj ( 607776 )

      >>> Who wants to use voice recognition, and for what?

      Those that can't type, or can't type quickly.

      >>> Who wants to see the person they're talking to on the phone on a screen?

      Makes sign language a heap easier.

      >>> Who wants to turn the lights on by clapping their hands?

      Anyone who can't, or can't be bothered to, get out of bed.

      Just because you don't need or want something doesn't mean someone else doesn't.

      • by 4D6963 ( 933028 )
        Interesting, you bring up good points, but you also show something else, these things are needed by only a very tiny percentage of people, people with special requirements.
        • by pbhj ( 607776 )

          There are a lot of people who can't type quickly.

          Globally there are a lot of sign language users.

          The number of lazy-ass people seems to be quite high too ...

          However, I'm in general agreement that we don't tend to need many new advances but they nonetheless prove useful.

          • by 4D6963 ( 933028 )
            On that same topic I noticed something interesting. We predict for the future to use these things we're discussing that, when they come, are actually quite marginal (or they actually don't happen), and we fail to predict the true revolutions, what will really change our lives in the future. I think Back to the Future II is a good example of this, it predicts the spread of very advanced domotics, which we can't really say we are really into nowadays, and fails to predict the ubiquity of the Internet and the
  • I've been waiting for Google to come out with this.

    This is the first step to true and accurate voice recognition and translation:

    1) Google user speaks search string into phone.

    2) Google gets it wrong, user corrects Google

    3) Multiply by millions of searches daily with constant correction and feedback from users

    4) Perfect voice rec, major profit

    There will be a few issues with voice recognition to begin with but as it gets better and more people use the service and add to the database with their corrections

  • Am I the only one wondering why this was done for the iPhone instead of the gPhone? I guess it was the same brilliant mind who decided to make chrome for windows first instead of linux and mac.
  • I know what I'm gonna try:

    "Hello, Google. My name is Doctor Chandra. I'd like to teach you to sing a song. It goes like this: 'Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do. I'm half crazy, all for the love of you. It won't be a stylish marriage. I can't afford a carriage. But you'll look sweet, upon the seat, of a bicycle built for two.' "

    If it replies that it is an "H A L Niner-Triple-Zero", I am going to run screaming, renounce all computers and the Internet, and live a quiet life as a monk somewhere very very

  • I already have this! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I already have this on my Samsung Instinct. It uses Live Search though. Whats new with this? Just because Google did it? You people are such google suck-ups..
  • Interestingly enough, I've been able to do this in Live Search on my Windows Mobile 6.1 phone for months, now, and it works surprisingly well for Microsoft software. Glad Google and iPhone are finally joining the party.

  • But it works by having the phone do speech recognition while being held at arms length. That way you can have multi-modal communication and it not simply speech replacing pointing, but having them work together, using each modality for what it's good for. Here's a link to an article: http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2008/07/att-developing.html [wired.com] The idea of using the phones accelerometer is a great idea. In AT&T's demo you need to "click to talk", which makes sense for their design, but the accelerometer
  • People don't do research on an iphone. They do it on their desktop or notebook or UMPC. I found some voice recognition software named Tazti speech recognition that actually is a free download and performs voice searches of Google, Yahoo, MSN, Wikipedia, Amazon, eBay and many other websites. It also lets me log into and navigate Facebook and Myspace by talking to my PC. It really works well.

    Here's their youtube demo video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1tt_aeIAM8 [youtube.com]

    tazti is a free download from http://www.taz [tazti.com]

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