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From 'type & search' to 'talk & search'

Kushan Mitra     November 15, 2009

The advantage with consumer technology is that if something takes your fancy, you could probably try it pretty soon. With Internet technology, this time-frame is shortened considerably. Monday, November 2, at 3.50 p.m., Google sent a press release announcing the launch of voice-enabled search for Symbian S60 devices. Two minutes later, we had downloaded the 750 kilobyte application on a Nokia N96 and gave it a whirl. Much like Google Wave last issue, we were left feeling a bit… ambivalent is the word, I guess.

What we like: Google Voice Search is very easy. Launch the Google application from your applications folder. This could be a problem on older Nokia E and N series devices, though it wasn't on a N96. Keep the "call" button pressed and say what you are searching for. Pronto! You will get results for what Google thought you were searching for. Plus, by using location data, the results will be tailored to your location. Searching for "Chinese food" from our offices in Jhandewalan, New Delhi, gave results for some restaurants in Connaught Place a few minutes away. Impressive. The results are "integrated" with a mixture of local search results, regular web search and YouTube videos. Google Voice Search has been available in India on BlackBerry phones for about two months now. It still doesn't work on Android phones and the iPhone in India.

What we don't like: Google's voice recognition, however, still needs a lot of work. Terms like "taxi" and "Chinese food" worked fine, but others like "Sansad Marg" needed a bit of work. Though to be fair, after a few "didn't get that" screens and once returning results for "Samsung Marine", it did understand what we were looking for. Eventually.

Like most Google products, voice search is a work in progress. To have the confidence to release such a service on India's leading smartphone software platform means that despite a few not-so-perfect moments it works all right. It could be better, but we are a long, long way from perfection.

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