• August 22, 2008
  • By Leonard Klie Editor, Speech Technology and CRM magazines
  • FYI

Google Speaks to Voters and Drivers

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Internet search giant Google in July launched two speech-based products that could change how Americans get around and cast their votes.

The first, a search product that lets users of select BlackBerry smartphones  search Google Maps with their voices, launched in beta July 2. It employs the same speech recognition technology that powers Google’s free directory assistance platform, GOOG-411.

To access the function, users center the map view around their current locations, press the left-side keys on their phones, and speak their requests, either by business name or category. The service is available nationwide and supports the BlackBerry Pearl 8110, 8120, and 8130 models.

The second product, a speech-enabled video search engine, gives users access to the political candidates’ own words. The Google Elections Video Search gadget uses the same speech recognition technologies to transcribe videos from YouTube’s Politicians Channels and index them accordingly. Web surfers can use the gadget to search not only the titles and descriptions of the videos, but also their spoken content.    

And, "since speech recognition tells us exactly when words are spoken in the video, you can jump right to the most relevant parts of the videos you find," product managers Arnaud Sahuguet and Ari Bezman wrote in a blog post.

Google will also use the search results "to find out more about how people use speech technology to search and consume videos, and to learn what works and what doesn’t, to help us improve our products," the two product managers wrote on the blog.

They added that accuracy might be a problem at first, noting that "speech recognition is a difficult problem that hasn’t yet been completely solved, but we're constantly working to refine our algorithms and improve the accuracy and relevance of these transcribed results."

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