The battle to deploy voice-based search technology may be heating up, according to a recent press release.
Google Inc. appears headed for a battle with Microsoft Corp. and others over the technology, which can take the place of conventional directory assistance and offer new benefits for mobile-phone users, the Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition.
Google released a free experimental service called Google Voice Local Search. It allows users to dial a number, 1-800-GOOG-411, and search for businesses in specific cities, using technology that recognizes what callers say, the Journal said.
Google’s test comes less than a month after Microsoft announced plans to buy Tellme Networks Inc. for a price that people familiar with the matter put at $800 million, according to the report.
The closely held Silicon Valley company specializes in services that combine voice-recognition technology with the Web, and already provides automated directory-assistance services for AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc.
Verizon communications could also soon enter the race, which is largely inspired by the huge opportunity to sell ads that will run on mobile phones and by the fact that Google doesn't dominate that business, as it does for searches that use computers, according to the report.
Yahoo in launched a cellphone-search service called oneSearch that requires people to type queries into a handset browser or to send text messages, but Yahoo officials say spoken queries could become an option.
Until recently, voice recognition has mainly been used by telephone carriers and companies to lower costs by reducing the need for live operators, according to the story. Recently, that technology also has been used by some new entrants to provide free, ad-supported alternatives to paid directory assistance, such as Jingle Networks Inc.'s 1-800-FREE411 service, The Journal said.
The latest push by technology companies is also designed to make voice-based searches better, not just less expensive, according to the report.
Google’s experimental service, like the Web, can work even if callers don’t know the name of a business they want, the Journal said, explaining that a user can ask about a type of business, such as a coffee shop, and specify an intersection or ZIP Code and the service will read off a list of nearby businesses that fit the criteria.