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4/17/2006
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Google Wins Patent For Voice Search

The patent covers voice interfaces for search engines, which could be a boon for cell phone users.

We're likely to see more people shouting into their cell phones while walking down the street now that Google has won a patent for a voice interface for search engines.

Then again, maybe not: "Prospective product announcements should not be inferred from our patent applications," says a Google spokesman.

Still, the 5-year-old patent application confirms the company's commitment to extend its reach beyond the desktop to mobile devices, something seen in Google's recent series of mobile-oriented moves, such as its launch of mobile phone search advertisements in Japan.

Google states in its patent filing that "there exists a need for a voice interface that is effective for search engines." If so, then Google, having developed such an interface, might just bring it to market. Google also believes it can use its stored text and audio queries to improve speech recognition and relevance, which would boost the usefulness of any speech-based search service the company offers. "Speech as a mode for doing searches is getting more reliable," says Dan Miller, an analyst with Opus Research.

Others have the same idea. Both Google and Yahoo have a large number of people working on speech-related issues, and both companies have engaged in aggressive recruiting. What's the appeal? There are hundreds of millions of cell phone users, and delivering targeted, localized ads to them could be a big and profitable business.

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