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11/18/2008
09:57 AM
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Google Mobile App With Voice Search: First Look

Google Mobile App for iPhone makes it possible to do a Google Web search using only your voice. Mostly it is fantastic.

The highly anticipated voice-search enabled version of the Google Mobile App for the iPhone appeared in Apple's iTunes Store on Monday evening.

"The new Google Mobile App for iPhone makes it possible for you to do a Google Web search using only your voice," explains Google mobile engineering manager Dave Burke in a blog post. "Just hold the phone to your ear, wait for the beep, and say what you're looking for. That's it. Just talk."

There's a bit more to it than that, but mostly the new Google Mobile App is fantastic.

It took a few tries to get the timing right. The app senses when you move the phone to your ear to begin recording. On my first few attempts, I spoke my query before the phone was in place.

Thus my query "French restaurant" was interpreted "Toronto," because the phone only caught the tail end of what I'd said.

But once I was more patient and waited to hear the tone before speaking, Google Mobile App proved to be remarkably good at understanding what I said.

I tried speaking with a regional accent to gauge the app's flexibility. A Tony-award winning moment it was not, but it seemed a worthwhile test. My attempt at Southern-inflected English, "eye-talian food," to my surprise returned results for "Italian food." But mimicking my father-in-law's Baltimore accent, "fried ayggs" instead of "fried eggs," was interpreted as "Fridays." So TV newscaster diction is recommended.

I tried "pizza" and Google interpreted the word correctly, returning a list relevant search results. There was a link to Pizza Hut at the top of the search results list, followed by three local San Francisco listings for places to get pizza. When I tried this search on Monday evening, Google served an odd ad: The top sponsored listing was for a site called RapidScreenings.com that advertised STD testing. But on Tuesday, that glitch had been fixed: A Domino's ad appeared in the sponsored results.

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