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Voice-based search: Next Net goal

April 12, 2007 13:29 IST
Voice-based search technology has become the new battleground for web majors including Google and Microsoft.

Google recently launched its free experimental service called Google Voice Local Search which allows users to dial a number and search for businesses in specific cities, using technology that recognises what callers say.

Google's test, The Wall Street Journal says, comes less than a month after Microsoft announced plans to buy Tellme Networks Inc. for an estimated price of $800 million.

The closely held Silicon Valley company specialises in services that combine voice-recognition technology with the Web, and already provides automated directory-assistance services for AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC.

Yahoo, another web titan will soon enter into the race for the huge opportunity to sell ads that will run on mobile phones. Yahoo in January launched a cellphone-search service called oneSearch that required people to type queries into a handset browser or to send text messages. But Yahoo officials admitted that eventually spoken queries would become an option.

"We do believe that voice technology in the mobile space will play a very important role," said Marco Boerries, senior vice president, Yahoo to the newspaper.

Until recently, voice recognition has been mainly used by telephone carriers and companies to lower their costs by reducing the need for live operators. Recently, the technology also has been used by some new entrants to provide free, ad-supported alternatives to paid directory assistance, the paper said.

Google's experimental service, like the Web, can work wonders for the callers who don't know the name of a business they want, the Journal said, noting that a user can ask about a type of business, such as a coffee shop, and specify an intersection or ZIP Code. The service will then read off a list of nearby businesses that fit the criteria.

Another step forward in the technology is being tested by Tellme where the user will start with a spoken query but will get results from that question on the display screen of their handset.

Besides the name of a pizza shop, for example, a user could instantly see a map to it. This technology however, requires a specific software to be operational on the handsets, could also ultimately help the user complete a transaction, such as order a pizza, the report adds.

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