Google Search by Voice: A Case Study

September 9, 2010

Posted by Johan Schalkwyk, Google Research

Wind the clock back two years with your smart phone in hand. Try to recall doing a search for a restaurant or the latest scores of your favorite sports team. If you’re like me you probably won’t even bother, or you’ll suffer with tiny keys or fat fingers on a touch screen. With Google Search by Voice all that has changed. Now you just tap the microphone, speak, and within seconds you see the result. No more fat fingers.

Google Search by Voice is a result of many years of investment in speech at Google. We started by building our own recognizer (aka GReco ) from the ground up. Our first foray in search by voice was doing local searches with GOOG-411. Then, in November 2008, we launched Google Search by Voice. Now you can search the entire Web using your voice.

What makes search by voice really interesting is that it requires much more than a just good speech recognizer. You also need a good user interface and a good phone like an Android in the hands of millions of people. Besides the excellent computational platform and data availability, the project succeeded due to Google’s culture built around teams that wholeheartedly tackle such challenges with the conviction that they will set a new bar.

In our book chapter, “Google Search by Voice: A Case Study”, we describe the basic technology, the supporting technologies, and the user interface design behind Google Search by Voice. We describe how we built it and what lessons we have learned. As the product required many helping hands to build, this chapter required many helping hands to write. We believe it provides a valuable contribution to the academic community.

The book, Advances in Speech Recognition, is available for purchase from Springer.