Apple's Siri voice assistant software has spurred Google to tack natural language processing onto its Voice Actions voice command application, a project code-named "Majel."
Once the ooing and ahhing about the
Siri intelligent virtual assistant subsided a bit when the application appeared
on Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 4S in October, the tech press conjured
questions concerning potential Siri competitors.
Now comes evidence from the blog Android and Me
that Google's answer to Siri is a natural language processing enhancement to
its Voice Actions application that is code-named "Majel." Majel is
short for Majel Barrett-Roddenberry
, the actress who voiced
of the Federation computer from Star Trek.
"Where Voice Actions required you
to issue specific commands like 'send text to ...' or 'navigate to ...' Majel will
allow you to perform actions in your natural language similar to how Siri
functions," according to the Android
The software is reportedly being built
in Google X, the super-secret (though not so clandestine, thanks to The New
York Times) lab led by Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Brin did say that one of
the Google X projects could come to fruition this year. Could Majel be it?
This would make sense. Google,
considered the market leader in voice-enabled search, must scramble to combat
the deadly perception that Apple is eating its lunch in anything involving
Siri constitutes a major threat to
Google, the current mobile search (and desktop) market leader. Mobile search
ads are $1 billion a year business for Google.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), it is widely
held, is the best challenger. The company has offered Google Voice Search on
the iPhone and its Android devices since 2008, and that application has been
expanded to cover 29 languages, supporting accents in 37 countries, including
the Middle East.
Google in August 2010 launched Voice Actions
which lets users speak commands into their smartphone to browse the Web, send
texts and make calls. Like Siri, Voice Actions lets users call businesses and
contacts, send texts and email, listen to music, and browse the Web by speaking
into their phone.
However, while Voice Actions hews to preset voice controls,
Siri goes beyond simple task completion by lending context to certain actions
Ask it the weather and it will retrieve
the info, using an iPhone 4S user's current location. A user can also ask Siri
if he or she needs an umbrella, and it will analyze local weather info to
determine whether it's going to rain. Voice Actions is like Siri, but
"dumber." Google, which prides itself on tackling Herculean
challenges, including artificial intelligence tasks, would seem poised to