Speech Luminary: Powerful Friends

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When online search engine giant Google launched Google Voice in March 2009, the move ushered in a new age of telephone service. The move also suggests that Google is now serious about its speech technology portfolio and looking to include new modalities, like voice, in its ubiquitous search capabilities.

Google Voice is the brainchild of Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet, who offered the product under the Grand Central brand through a company they founded in 2005. Google acquired that company in 2007, and the product and its subscribers languished for about two years until Google ceremoniously rebranded it and rolled it out as Google Voice, for which Walker and Paquet are the product managers. 

Google Voice uses the same proprietary automatic recognition engine used in Goog411, Google’s directory assistance offering, and its mobile voice search products. It includes an array of free features, such as free calls to anywhere in North America, voicemail transcription with automatic speech recognition, text messaging, call recording, conference calling, call routing, personalized greetings, call blocking, and the ability for users to create a single phone number to unify all of their business and personal communications.

Google Voice was considered an immediate threat to traditional phone service providers, but the impact is more profound. With a big household name like Google behind speech, the future might be poised for even greater adoption of speech-to-text products and services by all types of consumers.

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