December 15, 2011
Android’s ‘Majel’ Is Google’s Answer To Siri
Google Android's own version of Apple's smartphone voice software, Siri, could launch in as little as a few weeks, according to reports.
Codenamed Majel, after esteemed Star Trek legend Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, the voice-activated personal assistant could be Android's answer to Siri, which has received a huge amount of attention since its debut. For those who do not know, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, provided the computer interface voice in most of Star Trek's series.
According to technology website Android and Me, the Majel project has been developed by Google in San Francisco over the past year. Taylor Wimberly, founder of the site, published a post with unofficial information that Majel could debut by year's end.
While most Android phones already carry Google's interactive app, Voice Actions, it still requires a rigid user input, without the freedom to stray beyond pre-set commands. If the reports are accurate, Majel will detect users' vocal behavior much in the same way Siri does, offering a better conversational experience.
Android OS director Matias Duarte told consumer electronics weblog, Slashgear, in October that the voice assistant in development would be like the computer mainframe on “starship Enterprise.” Everything is voice-aware. “It's not that there's a personality, it doesn't have a name, it's just ℠Computer.' And you can talk to it and you can touch it, you can interact with it at the same time as you talk with it. It's just another way to interface with the computer,” he said.
With only a few weeks left of the year, it seems unlikely that Google will have Majel ready for debut. A January or February release might be more realistic.
“Speaking of actions, it sounds like only Google search queries will be included with the initial release, that could come as soon as this year. I say this year because I've heard that engineers at Google X are working around the clock on finishing the first release and the NY Times previously reported that one product would be released by Google X this year,” offered Wimberly.
Google has yet to make an official confirmation, but based on the buzz surrounding Siri, and all the chatter surrounding Majel, a confirmation seems likely at any time -- especially since the Internet search titan's recent acquisition of Phonetic Arts, a company specializing in speech synthesis.
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