The great voice race: is Apple's Siri set to beat Google off top spot? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

The great voice race: is Apple’s Siri set to beat Google off top spot?

As Apple celebrates 4 million iPhone 4S handsets sold in its opening weekend, how can Google bounce back in the artificial intelligence war? Siri, Apple’s self-described pers...

As Apple celebrates 4 million iPhone 4S handsets sold in its opening weekend, how can Google bounce back in the artificial intelligence war?

Siri, Apple's self-described personal assistant in your pocket, is now the largest distribution of artificial intelligence in the world and boasts a 'natural' voice engine that actually understands English in a way never seen before. You can now ask Siri 'what's the weather like in the Bahamas' or perhaps, more appropriately, tell it to wake you up in 20 minutes. There are some teething problems in that Siri has some trouble recognising regional, and specifically Scottish, accents but Apple is actively collecting data every time Siri is used so it learns how to respond not only to your voice, but to all voices in general.

Siri may not be confined to iPhones either. Rumors have begun circulating about an Apple-designed television which replaces the remote with their unique voice recognition software.

It wouldn't be Apple, however, if there wasn't a dark side to the pocket PA. When Apple acquired Siri and its 40 years of research into voice-recognition technology, they systematically closed down the development of Android and BlackBerry applications – beginning a voice war and bringing it straight to the doors of Google Inc who's ageing Voice Actions for Android feel a little less than human.

At the moment Google's rarely used voice recognition software will happily recognise individual words but struggles with sentences. Equally Google's software is not integrated properly into their operating system. It is essentially limited to web searches on most devices.

Google has responded to Siri by with a campaign to highlight the advantages of Voice Actions and they have promised a new, more natural voice engine with the release of Ice Cream Sandwich (the latest in the Android operating system) in January. The problem for Google is the distribution of an advanced piece of software to over 40 handsets of different specifications. They've already promised that Samsung Galaxy S2 owners will be the first to experience the new service but how will the newly improved Voice Actions cope with a vast array of different handsets, ranging from the featherweight Galaxy S2 to the rather miserable little HTC ChaCha? The answer perhaps lies within their recent acquisition of key patents from Motorola which may provide Google with a springboard for their own bespoke handsets which are built for the voice race against the Apple juggernaut. The big question is: will older Android users be left at the starting line when the gun goes off?

Google's Response

Google have already acknowledged that Apple's Siri could pose a massive threat to their hold over the search industry. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has responded to the release of Siri by saying, 'Apple has launched an entirely new approach to search technology with Siri, its voice-activated search and task-completion service built into the iPhone 4S.'

'Apple's Siri is a significant development: a voice-activated means of accessing answers through iPhones that demonstrates the innovations in search. Google has many strong competitors and we sometimes fail to anticipate the competitive threat posed by new methods of accessing information.'

His statement came in a letter in response to questions raised by a senator about Google's monopoly in the search business. If Siri can convince people  that voice search is a viable alternative, Google's monopoly could become a thing of the past.


18th November 2011 at 3:30 pm

Last Updated

17th November 2011 at 4:32 pm