Google Search with Voice

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Google just released a new version of its search app for iOS, with some enhancements to voice recognition. This update is impressive, and at the amazing price of free, highly recommended.

The blogosphere is ablaze with fanboys claiming this is a “Siri-killer.” The voice feature in Google Search is clearly not meant to compete with Siri. It is not an intelligent personal assistant, but is a clear improvement on voice-activated search. Unlike Siri, it does not engage in a conversation. It’s a one-shot deal. You speak a request, and it returns results. Sometimes the results are spoken.

The speech recognition is fast and accurate. This is where Google excels. The Google Search app for iOS can leverage that huge and fast server infrastructure. It is faster than Bing or Siri, although the latter may operate with more latency due to software complexity. However, I don’t think comparisons to Siri are warranted.

Google Search is not Siri

Google Search is not trying to be like Siri. Google never positioned it as such. This is an artifact of the blogosphere and fanboys. The “Siri-killer” notion is spouted by fanboys, many of whom don’t really know enough about Siri to know the difference. Unfortunately, much of the blogosphere has run with this idea. I understand, ad revenues are not what they used to be. Bloggers cater to the fanboy wars to get hits and maybe even start a flame war. I personally think integrity is more important, and will get more readers in the long run.

Siri is a personal assistant. It integrates with iOS and can schedule appointments and reminders, play music and video, recommend restaurants, get sports scores, send tweets, set a timer or alarm, retrieve stock quotes, launch a video chat, call a phone number, and much more.

To make this distinction perfectly clear, here are some examples:

I requested Google Search to “make an appointment for a massage Friday at 11am”. It returned search results for massage related sites.

Google search results for massage appointment

If Google Search was an attempt to be like Siri, it would have opened Google Calendar and added an appointment. By design, Google Search is unlike Siri. Google never positioned this voice feature to be Siri-like nor a “Siri-killer”. This is blogosphere and fanboy hype.

I asked Google Search to “play artist Rush”. It returned search results, with the soundtrack for the movie “August Rush” as the first item. No, it did not mistake “artist Rush” for “August rush”, as the screenshot demonstrates. That surprised me a little. Next to the Beatles and Rolling Stones, Rush are the highest grossing rock band in history. Nothing is perfect. Perfection of one platform over another is a figment of fanboys’ imaginations.

Google search results for play artist Rush

Google Search does not ask for clarification or engage in conversation. I asked it “how do I get to HP Pavilion”. It returned search results for HP Pavilion.

How do I get to HP Pavillion

Then I asked again, this time saying “get me directions to HP Pavilion”. This produced the desired results (although I do not live in SSF), however it demonstrates that Google Search does not ask for clarification. (continue…)

directions to HP Pavillion

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