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Quick Tryout: Google Voice Local Search

I couldn't resist testing Google's new Google Voice Local Search (GVLS), although it doesn't involve either booting up my PC or connecting to the Internet. As a result, it feels a bit strange, since Google is a name one normally associates with bits and bytes.
I couldn't resist testing Google's new Google Voice Local Search (GVLS), although it doesn't involve either booting up my PC or connecting to the Internet. As a result, it feels a bit strange, since Google is a name one normally associates with bits and bytes.GVLS is a new free phone information service, currently only for business listings, that offers an alternative to the phone companies' not-free 411 services. You call 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) and according to Google, if the business is part of the Google Maps database, you should be able to get connected.

It's an interesting experience. When you call, you get a cheery male voice that announces "GOOG-411 Experimental," and asks you for your city and state. Once, that's been established, you're invited to tell it either a business name or category. If there's only a single listing available, it offers to connect you; if more than one, you get a numbered list to choose from.

For at least one of my searches, GVLS worked fine. I was able to find a local pizza shop almost immediately -- I only had to "Go back" one time. ("Go back" is what you say to correct mistakes, or stop it from calling the wrong business. In the end, I used that phrase a lot.) Once the service gets it right, you can either have it connect you immediately, or ask for "Details," which will give you the address and phone number (or, at least, whatever info Google Maps has about the company).

I had less success trying to get connected to my local doctor. I gave the name of his medical center, the cheerful male voice repeated it correctly, and then told me it was going to connect me to a business in the next state over. (Which turned out to exactly coincide with the first listing I got doing the same search in Google Maps.) I tried various methods, including stating my doctor's name and a more generalized request for "doctor" (which I didn't expect to work, since I was calling from New York City, and we're got a lot of doctors). In the end, Google gave up before I did; at one point, I was told to "hold please," but instead of being connected, I was disconnected.

All that being said, even though I find many of today's voice-activated services highly frustrating (especially when I'm trying to get through to a real person), I was pretty forgiving of Google's brand-new service -- even when the mechanized guy at the other end insisted on pronouncing the word "pizza" as though it was a term from some obscure, ancient dialect. Perhaps because this is, after all, Google, and I've become used to dealing with Google's beta glitches.

Or perhaps it's simply because I'm cheap when it comes to phone services -- I have fits of deep resentment over all the extra fees that appear on my bills every month -- and so I'm very willing to give this new, and currently free, service a shot.

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing