Voice Control on track to become key technology for mobile internet

Yahoo has announced that it will facilitate mobile internet search through its “OneSearch 2.0” service. The Company maintains that in future all there is needed is to merely speak the search term into the telephone. To ensure that the new function operates effectively also in practice Yahoo has initiated a co-operation with the Speech Recognition Specialist vlingo.com, a Company jointly set up with Mike Phillips, founder of Speechworks and subsequently Board Member of Scansoft (now Nuance). Google, too, shows considerable initiative and does not stop short of its own engagement as far as the mobile search is concerned. As a first step in this direction, the California-based Company has decided to recruit Mike Cohen, the Voice Technology Pioneer and Co-founder of Nuance in addition to a few members from his old team. Last year, equipped with its voice-controlled telephone directory 0800-GOOG-411 Google enthusiastically set about to conquer the search engine market with voice technology. The system is based on transmitting Google Maps on the telephone. While the search will effectively be triggered by speaking the response is delivered via a Text-to-Speech-System (TTS) or, alternatively, as a SMS. Microsoft confidently builds on its sound and well-established positioning with  Smartphones (Windows Mobile) and its server strategy, which with its conversion to the “Communication Server“ is set to offer an impressive range of opportunities for integrating speech applications into a mobile internet world. On numerous occasions Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, has declared voice and speech technology the overriding key topic of the agenda on which to focus the Company´s attention. In order to make a head start towards this goal the software-giant has taken on a handful of high-calibre specialists in addition to the take-over of the service provider Angel.com.

 

A veritable trailblazer of the web-world, mobile search created a situation, in which voice automation may successfully capitalize on its extensive opportunities to its full potential, explains Bernhard Steimel, Spokes Person of Voice Days: ”Mobile phones are the modern door-opener to the internet for people who have or will never access it via the personal computer. However, special consideration must be given to the form factor, the screen size, the usage limitations as well as the disposable bandwidth. In other words there must be a guarantee that the search, the primary access to all contents and services to the internet, which undoubtedly will be more difficult from the mobile phone, is nonetheless possible without notable restrictions. It must gradually develop into an answering machine, which based on the connection of Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web, produces “right answers” instead of coughing up long link lists. Another requirement is that the mobile search is operable and serviceable without difficulty.

 

According to the experience of Lupo Pape, dialogue speech expert, the speech-controlled local search engines in the US, which with their gratituous directory systems based on audio ads placements, reap significant profits are not yet anything to write home about. “Jingle Networks with 1-800 FREE 411, Microsoft`s Tellme with 1-800-555-TELL and Google with 1-800-GOOG-411 are all concerned with the search in yellow pages, with entries such as pizza, Pizza Hut, Starbucks or MacDonalds being among the most frequently used search terms by a long chalk. From our point of view, however, these services are nothing but blind alleys, which currently still base their existence on the fact that directory services are liable to costs. They will continue to exist but will not exert a notable impact on our lives”, says Pape, Managing Director of SemanticEdge http://www.semanticedge.de.

 

By contrast, approaches adopted by mobile end devices, if yet still in their infancy and initial development stages, are set to be more compelling and gripping. ”Special attention ought to be paid to concepts and approaches like those by Yahoo und vlingo. The same applies to the Personal Assistant concept, which for instance Nuance offers with its speech-controlled applications on Blackberry. The use of voice recognition in navigation devices looks quite promising. Their objective is to simplify the usage of mobile end devices via voice control, for instance while entering the address, dictating SMS or making phone calls by means of speaking the respective name. However, companies like Nokia, Apple, Microsoft or Google, who claim to be the major players of mobile internet have not responded or presented a clear strategy in this field of action as yet. This is bound to change though as soon as initiatives like Android and the G-Phone will be presented in more concrete forms. We believe that the first end devices will be available soon”, predicts Pape.

 

Who from the service providers finally succeeds in winning the race of the mobile internet sovereignty depends on who will be in a position to combine the “battle for the best brains“ with the mightiest market power“ explains Steimel. “Google has already won the battle for the best brains. This success is not least due to Google´s approach to constantly developing new products coupled with its unique supreme quality strategy to validate with GOOG411 its own speech model in the scope of the world-wide largest pilot study. Also as far as market power is concerned, Google is still one step ahead. Mobile Google-Search not that of Yahoo or Microsoft Live Search, usually features on the front of the agenda with the majority of the telecommunications companies that offer their mobile clients a search option“, explains Steimel.