Google is pushing its voice-recognition technology to Apple’s iPhone first, before devices running its own Android mobile platform.
The New York Times offered photographs of Google employees Vic Gundotra and Gummi Hafsteinsoon using an iPhone for a voice search. The free application was expected to be available on Apple’s App Store on Friday. Google reportedly will soon offer the technology for other devices, presumably including the T-Mobile G1, which uses Android.
“This is an expansion of types of applications Google has already been developing,” said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. “Google has GOOG411, which is the underlying technical engine. They also have a voice-search client for the BlackBerry which is limited to maps. So this is an evolutionary step.”
Here’s how it works: The iPhone user asks a question, such as “Where’s the closest Burger King?” or “How wide is the Grand Canyon?” The user’s voice is converted to a digital file and transmitted to Google’s servers.
Google Search then serves up the results — in a matter of seconds if the user has a fast wireless network, the Times reports. The search results always include any local information.
“The question with these types of technologies is how good is the speech recognition? It’s getting much better, and that’s why Google feels this is the right time to introduce this,” Sterling said. “Google has confidence now that voice recognition is good enough to open it up to the full Web search as opposed to the much more structured search on GOOG411.”
Google is playing catch-up, in a sense. Yahoo and Microsoft already offer a voice-recognition option for mobile phones. Microsoft’s Tellme service offers users information in specific categories, such as movies, maps or directions. Yahoo offers voice services through its oneSearch platform.