Thursday, October 18, 2007

GOOG-411 or CALL-411 - Voice-actuated Mobile Web

There are many who are touting the huge potential of the mobile web and there are many others who are pointing out the considerable hurdles the mobile web must overcome. Some of the most difficult hurdles can be overcome using voice recognition technology. Announcements this week by Google and Microsoft would seem to confirm this thinking.

As the Google Blog tells us, their local business info service has officially graduated from Google Labs. To mark the occasion, they’ve launched a brand new GOOG-411 website.

GOOG-411 helps callers find and connect with local businesses just by dialling 1-800-GOOG-411. It’s a voice-based local search service, which means it uses speech-recognition algorithms to recognize what a caller is saying and then finds the local business information he or she is looking for. These algorithms had to be trained with real utterances, much like how a baby learns language by listening to its parents. Since its unveiling in April, GOOG-411 has successfully served millions of callers.

Not to be outdone, Microsoft this week unveiled their voice-operated rival, with a free directory-assistance service for mobile users. Live Search 411 (FAQ) delivers local listings as well as weather updates, movie show times and airline information. Users with Internet-enabled devices can also receive links to maps and one-click driving directions. It also works with regular PCs. Last month, Microsoft rolled out several enhancements to its core Live Search portal, including updates designed to improve results for queries related to entertainment, shopping and health care.

The GOOG-411 and CALL-411 applications may be handling a relatively simple problem. However the same approach can easily be expanded to cover many of the services that mobile Web users are looking for. This is an important step in the growth of the Mobile Web.