Google Updates Voice Search For iOS To Compete With Siri

Enid Burns for — Your Universe Online

Since people first began talking to their iPhone’s Siri, there have been complaints that the service doesn’t do a good job with voice recognition, isn’t accurate in its answers, and that Apple supposedly alters the answers to questions it doesn’t like. This week Google released its Google Search for iOS, a straight-talking service that is said to be fast and accurate; it just doesn’t always talk back like Siri.

While Google has had voice search for some time, the Apple competitor just released the app in the iTunes store for iOS devices including iPhone and iPad. The timing of the app’s release coincidentally came when Apple fired Scott Forstall, the company’s senior vice president of iOS software. Forstall was in charge of Siri, and also Google’s much criticized map service.

Google Search isn’t so much about talk, but it is about action. Siri gained attention for its voice response. While Google offers that option, many voice search queries will bring up answers in the form of search results. On the Official Google Blog, a post explains that if you ask “What does Yankee Stadium look like?” Google will show you pictures. Ask the app to show you a trailer for an upcoming movie and the app will queue up the trailer.

At times when there is no quick answer, search results will appear under the queried information. This way users can get quick information, and dig deeper when curiosity is not settled.

For quick answers, Google draws on Knowledge Graph, a rapidly-growing database maintained by Google to provide answers to questions ranging from trivia to academic lessons as well as current events to historical information.

The knowledge Graph is built by Google, though it is being built to encyclopedic depths. Apple has taken some criticism for its Siri database. BBC News notes that when Apple doesn’t like the answer it often edits the database for future queries. The article offers one example. “When asked to recommend the best smartphone, Siri answered: ‘Nokia’s Lumia 900’ but it was changed within days to: ‘Wait“¦ there are other smartphones?'”

How do results stack up? This week Forbes put Google Search and Siri to a head-to-head test. The publication used Hurricane Sandy, a very current event, as a test. Google Search stayed up to the minute with reports on the storm when asked what the damage was from the hurricane. Siri reported on standings (incorrectly at that) for the NHL hockey team the Hurricanes. The article also reports pauses between when the question was asked and Siri’s response. As Google’s Kenneth Bongort, engineer for Google Search, promised in the introductory blog post, the service is fast and accurate.

“Fast and accurate voice recognition technology enables Google to understand exactly what you’re saying. Getting an answer is as simple as tapping on the microphone icon and asking a question like, ℠Is United Airlines flight 318 on time?’ Your words appear as you speak, you get your answer immediately and – if it’s short and quick – like the status and departure time of your flight – Google tells you the answer aloud.”

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