Saturday, April 11, 2009

Google's 'Voice Search' comes to India

Nice post on siliconindia:
I specifically liked the example to search for whether :) - must be phonetic.. Anyway given the heavy accents of the south and north and various sub languages, there is a lot of work for google india for just collecting all this data.

Google's 'Voice Search' comes to India
By siliconindia news bureau
Friday,10 April 2009, 15:09 hrs

Bangalore: Now search is just a call. Google has set path for a new era in the speech analytics with 'voice search', which it recently introduced in Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. One just needs to speak a single word into the phone, such as 'whether' or 'hotel' and one can get the top results.

The 'voice search' uses a combination of automated voice recognition engine and operators to provide this facility. To make the service faster and better, Google is also experimenting with voice recognition technology, which will ensure 24-hour support. Currently, the automated system offers results in English, but the operator-driven system offers results in only Hindi and Telegu.

"This is in line with our mission of making information universally useful and accessible, be it at home or on the go," explains Hugo Barra, Group Product Manager, Google Mobile. Not all those who make queries, though, will get accurate results, since the project is still in its pilot stage, reported Business Standard.

Google's logic is a simple one. Mobiles outnumber personal computers (PCs) in India. Besides, just about 5-7 percent of the population has an internet connection, including those who use surf the net via their mobiles. "Voice enables India to reach non-web users in local languages even as our core strength is search," Barra adds.

In the U.S., Western Europe and Japan, the 'voice search' feature is available under the Google Mobile App for the iPhone. It is also available on the Android-based T-Mobile G1, and was introduced on the BlackBerry as a free download last month.

In India, though, Google plans to extend the technology to other cities once it is confident in the quality of its speech recognition technology "in any region of the country", since the number of languages and accents in India are very diverse and distinct from each other.

The company is currently not making any revenue on this service in India though it monetises this in the U.S., Western Europe and Japan through ads which appear when the results show up. It does not charge the user for information received or for connecting them to businesses. The local business information used by Google is the same as that on local search. Data is continuously being added, and Google is collecting feedback from the users, Barra explained.

Talking about the company's mobile strategy, Vinay Goel, Country Head of Products, Google India, said, "There has been a significant increase of mobile search users in 2009. We believe that users graduate from plain voice search to an SMS-based one and finally to internet-based search, which is our goal."

The search giant has also made Orkut (its social networking site) and Google Maps available on mobiles. Besides, it also has the Google Latitude (to help locate one's friends) feature as an opt-in download.