Google Voice Search Unveiled in the Middle East

Google has rolled out Voice Search in Arabic and Hebrew for Android and iPhone users.

Users in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel can speak Arabic and Hebrew into their phones to get search results quickly and easily.

"When building support for Arabic and Hebrew into our language model we faced some unique challenges, including how to understand words with diacritics (accents that indicate a difference in pronunciation, a linguistic phenomenon called "Nikud" in Hebrew, and "Tashkil" in Arabic) and words appended with other words ("and" for example) that can have many different nuanced meanings," said Bertrand Damiba, product manager, in a blog post.

Damiba said to train its system Google collected more than 1 million utterances in Arabic and Hebrew, using the languages as they are spoken in the more populated parts of each country. For Arabic, the company trained the system to recognize Gulf, Levant and Egyptian dialects. The company acknowledged that the app isn't perfect.

"While initially we may not accurately recognize words spoken in every regional accent and dialect, one of the major benefits to Google's cloud-based model is that the more people use Voice Search, the more accurate it becomes," Damiba said.

With the launch, Voice Search is now supported in 29 languages and accents in 37 countries.

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