Google Adds Siri-Like Voice Search to iOS App

By: Chloe Albanesius Email
By: Chloe Albanesius Email

Google this week unveiled a revamped search app for iOS that adds a Siri-like voice-recognition service.

The search giant said the app update brings its "most advanced voice search" to iOS. When opening the free Google Search app on your iOS device, you will be greeted with a "Try our new voice search" message above a microphone icon on the main page. Tap that microphone, and speak into the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch as if you were talking to Siri.

Words will appear on the screen as you speak, and the answer will appear below as any other search query might show up. "If it’s short and quick, like the status and departure time of your flight—Google tells you the answer aloud," the company said in a blog post.

Google said its Knowledge Graph - which provides a snapshot view of search queries - is in use on this app, to give "our search technology an understanding of people, places and things in the real world."

Google provided examples of questions or demands that the voice search app could compute. Asking "What does Yankee Stadium look like?" for example, brought up photos of the stadium. I asked Siri on the iPhone 5 and she gave me directions there.

Google also said telling the app to "Play me a trailer of the upcoming James Bond movie" will start the trailer for Skyfall, which it did. But you have to use those particular words. Asking Google to "Play me a trailer for the next James Bond movie" brought up a trailer for Emergency on Planet Earth. Siri, meanwhile, didn't understand and thought I was asking her to look through my music for a James Bond song. When I asked for "Skyfall trailer on YouTube," she also didn't understand and offered to search the Web, which did finally bring up the trailer.

Siri and Google both responded correctly when asked when daylight savings time ended, as well as who is in the cast of The Office - though Siri pulled up the U.K. cast and Google showed the U.S. cast.

Google appeared to be a bit better at answering contextual questions. When I asked, "Is the New York City subway open?" I got news stories about the subway closure and Hurricane Sandy, and a link to the MTA website. Siri showed me listings for nearby Subway restaurants. Google did the same if I asked "Is the subway open?"

At this point, Siri is available on the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, as well as iPads running iOS 6. Google said the Search app, available now in the App Store, is optimized for iPhone 5 (meaning it will stretch to fit the larger screen), but also works on any device running iOS 4.3 and higher.
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