Google’s official answer to Siri will be like Star Trek’s computer

By on December 15, 2011
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A more natural way to communicate.

When Siri was launched with the iPhone 4S, many indie Android developers scrambled to come with an alternative  and ‘Iris’ was the first answer. However, it seems that Google themselves have been working away on voice recognition for quite some time now, and the result maybe more impressive than anyone thought possible.

Codenamed ‘Majel’ the new voice recognition system on Android is named after Majel Barrett who played the voice of the Enterprise computers on the Star Trek TV series. Originally rumored to be out by the end of this year, Majel will most likely release early next year given how advanced it is.

One of Android and Me’s inside sources claimed that he’s used Majel and even in its prototype stage it was impressive. “It’s definitely as good, or better, than Siri. At least on the tablet you can sort through different answers with these swipe-able trays. Like, if you say “show me the Statue of Liberty” it’ll automatically take you to Google Image results, but another tray beneath it might be its location on Google Maps and then another tray might have a Wikipedia page. It’s also pretty good at giving you succinct answers if you ask it a question. The UI is definitely more powerful than Siri’s, even if a little harder to navigate.”

Another source of news, although we question the credibility, is reported via Reddit as an ex-Google employee who apparently worked at Google X, their secret lab we reported about last month. “The central focus of Google X for the past few years has been a highly advanced artificial intelligence robot that leverages the underlying technology of many popular Google programs. As of October (the last time I was around the project), the artificial intelligence had passed the Turing Test 93% of the time via an hour long IM style conversation. IM was chosen to isolate the AI from the speech synthesizer and physical packaging of the robot.

In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Matias Duarte, the computer-interface designer and user-experience lead for Android said that, “I really want computers to be multimodal. When you watch a science fiction show like Star Trek, someone walks up to a wall and starts touching things and speaking to a computer at the same time. That’s the way that I think our interfaces need to evolve. You need to be able to start using email, touching things on screen, speak to it, touch more things, and not really have to think about ‘am I using Voice now or not using Voice.’ You just use the computer input that is most natural at that time.”

Computer, show me the Milky Way.

The emphasis on speech synthesis for a better working Majel is further supported by the fact the Google recently acquired Phonetic Arts, an England based company that has made cutting edge advances in speech synthesis. Clearly Majel is designed to be much more than what Siri is, but even now it’ll be released as just a search engine, albeit one with more astute results. In time, though, a Star Trek like interaction with computers will be a possibility, and we’ll have Google to thank for that. Also, Gene Roddenberry?



From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

  • Grafix2007

    interesting, lets wait and c !!

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