Google adds 13 languages to voice search

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Google adds 13 languages to voice search
Google adds 13 languages to voice search

Search giant Google has expanded the net of its mobile voice search capabilities by adding 13 new languages to the Voice Search service for Android phones. The new languages are all associated with European markets, with the likes of Swedish, European Portuguese and Finnish joining regional tongues such as Basque, Catalan, and Galician. All told, the company said in a blog post the newly-added languages are spoken by 100 million people worldwide.

Google launched voice search for both desktop and mobile platforms in June 2011. Since then, the company has aggressively expanded the language support roster, covering the dominant languages of trade and business in most regions. There remain some glaring gaps in the service's coverage campaign—notably, neither Hindi nor any regional languages of India are supported.

Between Google's widening Voice Search language net and the popularity of Apple's Siri voice-command service, it is clear that mobile platforms are taking hands-free command very seriously. "Over the last 15 years, speech recognition has had a reputation for not being highly accurate especially when used on mobile devices. What Apple has done with Siri has laid the groundwork for greater acceptance and comfort of using voice as an interface between user and device," says Daniel Hong, lead analyst of customer experience and interaction at Ovum.

The first hints of Google's voice-recognition aspirations were first evident five years ago, when the company launched the now-defunct Goog-411 telephone service. The service converted spoken requests into telephone directory search results—and provided Google with a rich database of authentic, spoken words to hone its speech recognition engine against.

"Since the days of Goog-411, we've seen Google work to capture and build a large corpus of utterances and data  to improve their speech recognition performance," Hong says. "They're now using that in conjunction with captured utterances today on its voice search on Android devices for continuous improvement. The more utterances Google captures, the more optimized the service becomes, and the more optimized it becomes, the more it can be an accepted and highly-used interface. And with this Google can potentially monetize commercial opportunities based off of multimodal communications."

With 42 languages now supported, Google Search is considerably more cosmopolitan than Apple's Siri service, which comprehends only English, French, German, and Japanese. Android's Voice Actions, which understands commands such as text message composition, music playback, Web navigation and phone dialing, is available in English only.

Through a spokesperson, Google declined to comment.

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