Google's New Investment in Robo-Voice Technology

The search giant wants your computer to speak to you (and vice versa)

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While Google's courtship of Groupon continues, the search giant announced Friday it's acquiring Phonetic Arts, a speech synthesis firm based in Cambridge, U.K. Google aims to build software allowing people to talk to their computers and their computers to talk to them. The voice technology also portends big things for mobile. Here's the tech-blog chatter on this new move:

  • Google Is Taking Voice Technology Seriously, writes Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch:

Google has been paying a huge amount of attention to its voice recognition and transcription technologies over the last few years ... YouTube now includes automatic voice transcription captions for millions of videos; Android has voice recognition integrated throughout the OS; and Google has voice search apps for other mobile platforms, like the iPhone. But while these voice recognition apps are getting much better, whenever they need to read something back to you (for example, for language translation or GPS navigation) it’s quite obvious that you’re listening to a computer. Which is where Google is planning to start applying Phonetic Arts’ technology.

  • Opens the Door to Many Possibilities, writes Marin at IntoMobile: "Android can already give you audible turn-by-turn directions with Google Navigation but there are plenty of other areas where I could see this being useful on a mobile phone." For example:

Wouldn't it be great if your Android handset could read your e-mails out loud to you while youre driving? Heck, one could even see the Phonetic Arts technology being using to read you e-books from the Android book store.

  • This Will Change the Way We Use Phones, writes Richi Jennings at Computer World:
As more and more day-to-day computing tasks are performed on small, handheld devices--sooner or later, we're going to stop calling them "phones"--there's a greater need for high quality speech input and output. Imagine searching for a nearby Greek restaurant from your Android phone. You can speak your request, Google could ask you what sort of price range you want, and let you know there's one just around the corner. It might even read some reviews to yo
  • Apple Competes in this Space as Well, writes the staff at Electronista:
Acquiring Phonetic Arts might widen Google's edge in speech technology over Apple. Google already has more extensive voice commands through Android 2.2's Voice Actions, but Apple recently bought out Siri with an aim towards more natural language searching, although it didn't share the same emphasis on voice synthesis as Phonetic Arts. iPhones have spoken features such as VoiceOver and acknowledgements of commands in Voice Control, but these have a relatively limited pool of dialogue and are usually based on existing Mac OS X voice feedback.

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