There has been a certain degree of pent-up excitement for Google’s new voice search functionality on the iPhone. It comes in the newest version of the already existing Google Mobile App. It was supposed to launch on Friday but was reportedly delayed until today.
The application processes speech into text and sends it along to Google servers to return results. This can involve a wide range of queries, but it will have clear local implications (i.e., “where is the closest coffee shop?”). The location awareness of the iPhone will be used for certain queries (movie showtimes, restaurants, etc.) to give local results that are closest. This joins Microsoft’s Tellme, Yahoo’s oneSearch, V-Enable and others in the market for voice search applications.
It will likely use the speech recognition technology that has been developed and refined over the past few years in Goog411. But it seems like this could run into some usability issues as Goog411 generally involves a set of more structured inputs (city and state) versus the wide range of questions that could be asked in a Google query (“What year was the White Album recorded?”).
A use case involving a spoken query also will involve more natural language searches, which doesn’t exactly match the way users type queries at their computers or the way search engines “think.” How it works in practice is yet to be seen, but we’ll give it a good field test to find out. For now, it definitely has a wow factor and some neat features like knowing when to start and stop recording based on the phone’s motion as you pull it away from your ear (utilizing the device’s built in accelerometer).
It’s also interesting that Google is launching this first for the iPhone rather than on its own Android mobile platform. This shows that it’s probably interested in reaching the largest market for the application and perhaps also test marketing it among iPhone users. We’ll give it our own test and will report back with more. In the meantime, check out Google’s promotional video for the application here.