As reported on the BBC, Google is making a major effort to get into voice search. They see voice search – actually saying out loud what you’re looking for – is a big opportunity to grab market share of the mobile web.
Vic Gundotra, Google VP of Engineering said “We believe voice search is a new form of search and that it is core to our business”, during a recent discussion at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.
He added however that what was currently limiting the roll out was the ability of voice recognition technology to accurately capture user search requests. There was also a suggestion that the technology could not understand any but American accents.
However, Mr Gundotra was confident the obstacles could be overcome. “Look how far we have come. I get the advantage of looking at daily voice queries coming in and it’s amazing. It’s working. It’s reached a tipping point. It’s growing and growing very, very fast and we are thrilled about it,” he added Mr Gundotra.
The technology apparently learns on the job, and improves itself with increased use and more user feedback. Initially launched on the iPhone, Google claim that they have seen a 15% jump in accuracy as they collected more data.
It’s not the first time Google have tried to get into voice search. Back in 2002 Google Labs trialed a service allowing users to search with just a phone call. However the job was only half complete, since results were sent to your computer screen, and not read back to you.
It’s not just available on the iPhone, but also the G1 and BlackBerry too.
Since I actually an iPhone I thought I would give it a go.
First off, I have to download the application. That’s an easy process. First I go to the App Store and search for ‘Google’. The first one that comes up is Google Mobile App, which includes the voice search function
Now to test it out: To work out how accurate it really is, I thought I would try a couple of search queries that I know what the answer SHOULD be. First of all: a brand search for WebEden.
I speak ‘webeden’ into the phone, and what do I get? Top of the list is a website called webkinz.com “the stuffed animal that comes alive online”! Not brilliant. But to be fair, the problem with ‘webeden’ is that it is a made up word, and there are a couple of ways to pronounce it (we say Web Eden as in garden of, but plenty of customers just punch through that second ‘e’ with an eh sound).
So now I try it pronounced ‘web-eh-den’. This time top of the search results is ‘weatherton family’ on Ancetry.com. Oh dear!
Now I try another search query that I should in theory know the answer to. ‘Website Builder’ is a search term that the website ‘webeden.co.uk usually ranks number 1 for, so again its a good test.
And what do I get this time? It’s Yahoo Website Builder, the website building tool that Yahoo sell. They’re technically a competitor, but that’s fair enough and pretty close, especially now I’ve also realized that the results are defaulting to the US.
So is voice search the future? Whether or not Google crack the technology, it feels so weird searching by speaking, that it’s going to take a whole mind shift to get used to using my voice rather than my keyboard – especially when every phone has a keyboard anyway. But what do you think – would you be prepared to search by speaking?