Google to iPhone Users: 'Talk to Me'

The Google Mobile App for the iPhone now includes speech recognition for searches.
Posted November 17, 2008

David Needle

Google's investing a lot of time, effort and money into the G1 Android phone initiative to create a wave of advanced mobile devices based on open source code. But the search giant's primary goal is to get more people using its services, so today's planned release for the hottest selling smartphone was no surprise.

The free download, Google Mobile App for iPhone, includes voice recognition features designed to let users simply speak their search requests. A video introducing the service features Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) software engineer Mike LeBeau speaking requests like "Pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge at Sunset" and "How big is a giant squid" and then seeing relevant results on the iPhone's screen.

However, it's late. Several reports stated the application will be available today, but as of 3 p.m. Pacific Time it was not yet listed on Apple's App Store for the iPhone. A spokesperson for Google said the application is complete and could go live today or in the next few days depending on when Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) makes it available.

The service uses the device's motion detector to know when to start and stop recording; i.e. record when the phone is placed to your ear for speaking, and stops when you pull it away to view the results. One tap on the Google Mobile App icon on the iPhone's display launches the application; tap the microphone to start

Like other mobile voice recognition software, such as Microsoft's TellMe for Windows Mobile, Google Mobile App is location-aware. So, for example, if you're in Chicago and ask for "Movies showing tonight," a list of movie theaters and times in the Chicago-area would be displayed. You can also now use voice commands to launch Google applications like Gmail and its Google News service

The Google software also supports the iPhone's virtual keyboard for those that prefer to continue typing in their requests. As with voice recognition, Google tries to speed up search process by offering suggestions as the user types, such as relevant Wikipedia entries, suggested search terms and Web site shortcuts.

A glimmer of future capabilities

Analyst Tim Bajarin notes the speech recognition for the iPhone is limited. "The Holy Grail is unstructured information, being able to say anything and get what you want," Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies told "We're a long way from that on mobile, we're not even there on desktop computers in terms of a system you don't have to train."

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Tags: Google, search, services, Microsoft, voice

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