Google brought mobile innovations to the desktop Tuesday with the rollout of a variety of technologies -- the most innovative: voice search. At an event in San Francisco, Mike Cohen, Google manager for speech technology, said mobile devices have spurred the need for these features, even on the desktop. The search engine processes years of non-stop speech daily.
A Google executive demonstrated how voice search distinguishes between "Worcester, Mass" and "Wooster College." Users click a button to the right of the search box, speak their queries, and see the results without typing a word. It does require computer users to open the audio microphone button and speak the search into the computer.
The company wants to make voice available in every application, including Google TV, which runs Android. That's why it is building a voice input application and search recognition technology that gets fed massive amounts of data -- and will learn all the various pronunciations of words and ways people construct sentences and phrases.
To recognize U.S. English and the phrases that people might use to express queries, Google feeds real query data into the system. In fact, about 230 billion words worth of data gets processed by a machine-learning algorithm. If Google did not have enough processing power, the learning could take many CPUs several decades to process.
Google TV voice-activated search will look similar to Microsoft's voice-activated search, recently available through Kinect, the controller-free motion-sensing input device for the Xbox 360 entertainment system. It allows consumers to power through a variety of entertainment and video games using voice commands and hand gestures.
Voice interaction technology will provide a method for deeper navigation, according to Forrester Research Analysts Charles Golvin and Seth Fowler. In a report titled "We Can Hear You Now," the analysts explain how on an Android phone consumers can say "Listen to ..." and specify an artist, album, podcast or playlist, rather than scroll through a list of names.
Voice search not only reduces the steps required to search through the menu system, it could also help consumers find search queries faster. Less query searches means fewer paid-search ads per session, something the Forrester analysts do not address in the report.