Google Tests Maps with Voice

Google yesterday began testing a new search product that lets users of select BlackBerry smartphones use their voices to search Google Maps.

The application, which is available for download, employs the same speech recognition technology that powers Google’s free directory assistance platform, GOOG-411, which it launched last year. 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. "When you’re done speaking, release the left-side key and our voice recognition technology will figure out your request and find the business you’ve been looking for, no typing needed," Jonathan Matus and Luca Zanolin, members of the Google Maps for Mobile Search team, wrote in a blog post.

The voice search function, they added, "is super-useful in situations when you can’t type, when the name of the business is long, or when you’re not sure how to spell it."

Besides directory listings, Google Maps for Mobile also provides geographic map views, traffic and transit information, directions, and location-based services. The service is available nationwide, though it currently only supports the BlackBerry Pearl 8110, 8120, and 8130 models in the United States. A Google spokesperson, however, maintains that the company is "always looking at ways to expand to other phones, platforms and carriers."

Google’s entry into the voice-enabled mobile search arena comes on the heels of similar product launches by Yahoo!, which recently signed a deal with vlingo to voice enable its oneSearch platform, Microsoft’s Windows Live Search for Mobile and Tellme offerings, and Nuance Communications, which is launching an open search platform for the iPhone.

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