Google Maps Navigation, Search by Voice Go International

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-06-09

Google June 8 expanded the scope of its Google Maps Navigation and Google Search by Voice features in an effort to gain a larger audience for those programs on smartphones.

The Google Maps Navigation 4.2 turn-by-turn GPS feature is now available for Android smartphones 1.6 and later in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland for Android devices 1.6 and higher.

Google launched Google Maps Navigation as a free navigational tool and a disruption to paid GPS apps and devices last October for Android 2.0 devices such as the new Motorola Droid.

Users could type or speak their destination into an Android-based smartphone and the GPS feature would kick in, voicing turn-by-turn directions for users.

Users can also type a business name and see a local list and directions to that business. Route searches include layers, helping users sniff out gas stations, restaurants or parking. Google later adapted the tool to run on Android 1.6 devices.

However, the feature's potential was still limited because it was only available for Google Maps in the U.S., U.K. and Ireland at launch. Today's expansion into 11 more countries with version 4.2 solves that issue.    

Of course, in order for Google Maps Navigation to be fully effective in the 11 new countries it's available in, it search by voice capability should learn the local languages.

To this point, search by voice has been available in English, Mandarin Chinese and Japanese but Google's lofty goal is to bring the tool to speakers of all languages.

The utility now recognizes and understands French, German, Italian, and Spanish when users in those countries download it from the Android Market.

That's a start, but it won't help Google Maps Navigation users who are native to Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland access search by voice. Moreover, Google Speech Technologies Product Manager Amir Man??« offers this caveat:

"Note that our new language models are designed for accents from Spain, France, Italy, and Germany. If you speak one of the new languages with another accent (for example, German in Austria, French in Switzerland, or Spanish in Mexico), Search by voice may not work so well for you."

These inconsistencies and the obvious language gaps may be forgiven because it's so early in the game. The task of grokking all the world's thousands of languages is Herculean.

Google provides some insight into this complex process, as well as the different ways users of Android iPhone and BlackBerry devices may access search by voice (this cries out for more uniforimity), here in this blog post.

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