Posted April 6, 2009 9:01 am by with 5 comments

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I’ve not had a lot of luck with voice recognition technology. My Acura MDX tempts me to use the built-in voice commands, but my request for "Nearest Mexican restaurant" ends up with the mind-boggling confirmation that my "Air conditioning is set to 74F."

So, you can imagine just how easy it had been for me to resist using the voice command feature of the Google search application on my iPhone. I simply didn’t have the time to make a fool of myself repeating the same search query over and over again. However, just last week I ended my Google voice virginity and finally used a voice command, instead of typing. The result? A surprising–and satisfying–success!

Apparently I’m not the only one switching from typed searches to voice ones. According to Vic Gundotra, VP of engineering for Google:

"We launched it on the iPhone and have seen a 15% jump in accuracy because, as more people use it, we collect more data and our accuracy gets better."

He also went on to tell San Francisco’s Web 2.0 Expo audience that Google sees a bright future for voice search:

"We believe voice search is a new form of search and that it is core to our business," said Vic Gundotra.

Some people are not so optimistic though. Take the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones. He tried the service last year and claimed the results were "pure gibberish."

For example, his query about the next train, West Ealing to Paddington "delivered some useful information about ‘neck strain’ – but no train times".

The misunderstanding came due to Google struggling to understand non-American accents–in this case the Queen’s English–but those issues have since mostly gone away. (Heck, if it can understand my American/British mongrel accent, it can understand anyone’s!)

The big question is, just how many of us will switch to voice recognition for our search queries? And, do we really want to stand next to some guy at a train station while he asks Google: "How do I treat my hemorrhoids?" 🙁

  • I think voice search will improve over time. I was more concerned about Google Voice being able to correctly transcribe passwords or confidential info left on voicemail and putting that back in email. In the meantime, I’ve got to break people from leaving that type of info;-)

  • Just what I need. Something or someone else that doesn’t understand what I am saying! I’ll stick to typing for accuracy.

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..Internet Marketing’s Fresh 24

  • I don’t have an iPhone (BB Storm user), but I’ve been quite satisfied with 1-800-GOOG-411 (800-466-4411), another voice-activated Google product that has been out for a bit longer. The 411 is really only for local business searches, but it is much safer to use while driving than texting or browsing.

    Never really had a problem with accuracy of the voice recognition/translation either. Although like Google Maps, it sometimes fails to find listings for businesses that I know exist.

    Andrew Miller’s last blog post..Twitter Account Consolidation

  • @Andrew – thanks for sharing your feedback on GOOG 411. I’ve always wondered how well it worked, and now I know. 🙂

  • I really like Google Voice. I have had it for 2 weeks and love it. If you want to see Google Voice in action I just posted a walkthrough / review to my blog at

    Keep up the great posts!!

    Matt’s last blog post..Google Voice on the iPhone and Touch?