Friday, June 17, 2011

Google voice search arrives on PCs

Since the launch of Chrome 11 Beta the Internet giant Google promised greater interactivity with computer users with the addition of built in speech to text support. It has taken a few months to be incorporated into something more functional than a third party test page, but now Google has a search function which allows users to speak directly to their computers.

So far voice search is only available at and not all users have access to is as yet, though the company says it will be rolled out to everybody soon.

The technical advance is a step forward, though speech recognition is far from perfect. Just as Scotty in Sar Trek's the Voyage Home had trouble conversing with a 20th century computer, so too will many users today. A search for "weather Beijing" was an instant success, but Google's voice recognition still has trouble with some words. An attempt to ask for "Zbigniew Brzezinski" failed several times, bringing up "sydney restaurants", "tobacconist" and "city news Brisbane"! Of course that's a hard test and one's pronunciation may also be a factor. Still for relatively simple searches, the voice search function works well. "Time in new york" was quickly understood and returned the correct result and mathematical searches are also reasonably good. Translate also worked satisfactorily. By saying "translate tuna fish into Chinese", Google quickly responded with the correct answer.

Searching for a flight information worked fairly well though it was best to say "Flight British Airways three eight" rather than "Flight B A three eight", since it had trouble with individual letters.

But there is the question of how useful this might be. In a quiet room, it will be quite useful on occasion. But in an office environment there are obviously issues. Aside of disturbing colleagues, who may also think you've gone slightly loopy as you start to talk to you laptop, there is the factor of extraneous noise.

For most people this is likely to be a novelty or an occasionally used tool. It is doubtful that it will be as much used as the mobile version. On a mobile device the advantage of speech to text is the avoidance of using a tiny keyboard. On a laptop or desktop, some people are as quick to type as to talk. This is not quite up to Star Trek, but Google has once again pushed the boundaries of innovation. To use Google Voice Search one needs to use the Google Chrome browser [BBC / CNET / ZDNet / Google Voice Search]

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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