Monday, November 24, 2008


Note to readers: iPhonetics should not be confused with iPhonatics.

A regular reader — noticing my raft of recent iPhone postings — offered a pointer to this story published in London’s Daily Telegraph.

Google voice search baffled by accents
From correspondents in London
November 19, 2008 11:30pm

A NEW voice-recognition search tool for the iPhone has problems understanding British accents, leading to some bizarre answers to spoken queries.

The free application, which allows iPhone owners to use the Google search engine with their voice, mistook the word iPhone for "sex'', "Einstein'' and "kitchen sink,'' said the Daily Telegraph.

Comments left by users on the application's website seemed to confirm the problem.

"Awesome job google. only problem is every time I say the word 'fish' it registers as sex,'' wrote one, identified as Kevin.
The Yahoo version headlines it “iPhone sex: Google application baffled by British accents,” but the text makes it clear this is more of a Google story than an iPhone story.

This makes a nice segue to my next raft of postings — offering observations from Prof. Randy Stross’ book Planet Google. On page 87, Stross makes it clear that the free voice search offered by Google in the US is a datamining experiment — filling a codex of phonemes — rather than yet another failed business model. Quoting Google exec Marissa Mayer
Google’s speech recognition experts told her, “If you want us to build a really robust speech model, we need a lot of phonemes … people talking, saying things so that we can ultimately train off of that.”
As with other examples in Stross’ book, Google runs its business by algorithmically data mining terabytes of data. It can find billions (trillions) of pages of text off the Internet, but for a wide ranges of human voices, it offers a free beta services in hopes of enlisting millions of volunteers.

Presumably, once Google has its fill of (North) American, it can graduate to British, Scottish, Irish and perhaps someday even Aussie.

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