Google’s director of research, Peter Norvig, has told New Scientist that one of the reasons they launched their audio service, Google Voice, (not available in the UK or maybe not anywhere out of the US) is that they needed more human voice data to perfect their algorithms. (The article is not online for non-subscribers yet, but is on page 26 of the current print edition).
The example is given of translation – as Norvig says “in the past people had thought of this as being a linguistics problem” – now it seems Google has taken the approach of simply amassing enough good translations to be able to ‘guess’ what an unseen text might mean by comparing it to the previous translations. You have to admire the beauty of that idea and my experience is that while it is not perfect, Google translate generally does enough to allow you to use your intelligence and understanding of the context to fill in the gaps (of course it also explains why they ask you to “contribute to a better translation” – you are literally doing that by typing in a better answer),
The problem with voice appears to be two-fold: firstly that there still isn’t enough audio on the web and secondly that the range of different vocal styles and ticks means that the material that needs to be assembled to get a “big data, simple algorithm” approach to work is that much greater.
Norvig tells interviewer Peter Aldhous that nobody is actually listening to your voice when you leave a message with Google Voice (which then translates the voice into an email) – it’s all automated. But as Alhous states it is the sort of thing that has contributed to an unease about Google and its hunger for data.
Of course it is not as though a call on the phone network is particularly, or at all, secure.
- Google Testing Voice Search On Google.com (seroundtable.com)
- Voice Search on Google Chrome (tonbak.wordpress.com)
- Is Google Testing a “Speak Now” Voice Search Feature on Google.com? Probably Not (newsgrange.com)
- Google adds voice and video to Google Talk on Android smartphones (physorg.com)
- Google reportedly testing “Speak Now” search with Chrome (thenextweb.com)
- [In Response To Your Concerns] Google Voice + Sprint Integration Questions and Answers (androidpolice.com)
- Google Talk on Android phones! (telecomcanadaen.wordpress.com)
- Google bringing video chat to Android smartphones and tablet (android-tablet.org)