Everyone is all a-buzz about Google buying YouTube and what that means for television, but I am currently more interested in accessing Google with my telephone--an old fashioned land-line at that! Call
1 877 466 4411 (1 877 GOOG 411)
And try your luck with two voices that I've come to think of as Mr. Google Smooth and Mr. Google Hawking. They won't tell you who they are, but they seem to be the voices of Google Local Search.
It's worth calling just to hear Google Hawking try to pronounce "cuisine."
If you call, nothing announces that you've reached Google, but a slightly arch and apparently human Mr. Smooth informs you your call might be recorded and then asks for a city and state. Mr. Hawking then cuts in, slow, methodical, and synthetic, to repeat your query. All good? Mr. Smooth then asks for a business type or name. He does all the traffic direction--the prompting for commands, the suggestions of ways you can interact, the questions. Mr. Hawking just gets to read back your queries and read out the searches.
Actual search results described below the fold, but just some general remarks: the voice recognition is pretty good, even with some "foreign" words, but not all English words. (I don't know, is "Hobbit" English?) It puts a little too much emphasis on the business name or type part of the query and doesn't use the geography part as enough of a filter--it's pretty annoying when you're looking for something in Oakland to get a result in San Francisco. Google Hawking's repetition of the query back before listing results can fool you into thinking it's understood when it hasn't. And Hawking mispronounces some normal English words quite comically. Sometimes Hawking's mispronounced query results are so muddled it sounds like the connection is breaking up, which will probably be very frustrating to mobile users.
The spelling with one's number keypad using triple-tap is awkward, since there's no obvious way to erase only a few mistaken letters without starting again. Voice commands include "details" (basically, the phone number), "more results," (beyond the first three, which get repeated twice before Smooth&Hawking offer up the next five results themselves), a number, which gets Hawking to repeat that query, "go back" which takes you back without making you repeat the city and state, and "start over" which has you start from scratch. "Repeat," however, doesn't seem to catch that well. Hitting #1 during the search process will get you the spell-by-dialing-in-triple-tap option.
All in all this could definitely be useful in a pinch, especially while driving with one's mobile or otherwise without good internet access. In the Bay Area, where you need multiple yellow pages to cover your daily wanderings, it could really catch on. And of course it's free, which is a lot better than the mobile 411 fees I've gotten punched with in the past.
If it will amuse to find out how I got some of these conclusions, and a little bit of background, click on, dear reader.
Continue reading "Kai Seen: Synthesized Google Search on Your Phone" »