Google expands voice search for Apple's iOS in latest threat to Siri


Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is bringing its revamped voice-enabled search software to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS mobile operating system, where it will go head-to-head with Apple's own Siri voice recognition tool.

Google first introduced its speech-enabled Voice Actions feature for Android devices in 2010 but dramatically overhauled the technology in late June with the release of Android 4.1, a.k.a. Jelly Bean. According to Google, the improved Voice Search better interprets user questions and intent by combining the firm's speech recognition tools, a deeper understanding of natural language and its Knowledge Graph, a database encompassing more than 500 million real-world people, places and things complete with 3.5 billion attributes and connections.

"You just need to tap the microphone icon and ask your question, the same way you'd ask a friend," said Google Search Senior Vice President Amit Singhal. "For example, ask 'What movies are playing this weekend?' and you'll see your words streamed back to you quickly as you speak. Then Google will show you a list of the latest movies in theaters near you, with schedules and even trailers. It works for everything from celebrity factoids to the height of Kilimanjaro and more. When Google can supply a direct answer to your question, you'll get a spoken response too."

Singhal added that the revamped Google Search will be available for iPhone and iPad devices running iOS 4.2 and up. The Verge reports Google submitted the revised app to Apple's App Store about a week ago, with Singhal stating the company is "working with Apple to get the app to users in the next few days."

Apple introduced its Siri technology in 2011 in conjunction with the release of iOS 5. The service has since played a major role in its iPhone advertising efforts. The new iOS 6, coming this fall, includes an overhauled Siri boasting more than 200 new features in all, including automatic voice launch of iOS applications (e.g., "Play Temple Run") and voice-enabled Twitter posting. Also new: Eyes Free, a Siri-based initiative developed in association with automakers to help minimize distracted driving. The new Siri additionally brings expanded sports information, restaurant ratings and OpenTable integration for dining reservations and movie reviews and trailers in partnership with Rotten Tomatoes. 

The voice-enabled Google Search app is just the latest attempt to battle Siri on its home turf: Earlier this week, Nuance Communications introduced Nina, a virtual assistant tool enabling companies to add speech-based customer service capabilities to their existing iOS and Android applications. Nina combines cloud-hosted speech recognition, text-to-speech, voice biometrics and natural language understanding technologies to enable businesses to automate customer service features within the mobile user experience. Nuance software is reportedly included in Siri as well.

For more:
- read this Google Blog entry
- read this Verge article

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