Mobile Searches to Soon Have a Voice, Thanks to Google

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Back when the App Store was just a gleam in eager developers' collective eyes, Google was among the companies clamoring for a place in Apple's yet-to-launch virtual marketplace. Vic Gundotra, Google's vice president of engineering, told Macworld back in May that it expected to have applications available from "Day One" of the App Store's launch.

Indeed, Google delivered on that vow with its Google Mobile App, which lets users search address book contacts, Web sites, and businesses near their current location. The company subsequently released Google Earth for iPhone, a mobile version of its popular 3-D mapping and search tool. But that's been it for the Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant.

That's about to change, according to a report in the New York Times which says that the release of an app allowing voice-activated searches is imminent. As in "sometime Friday imminent."

Google's latest offering will enable users to speak their search queries, with the app spitting out results in a flash. Or as Times report John Markoff puts it:

Users of the free application... can place the phone to their ear and ask virtually any question, like "Where's the nearest Starbucks?" or "How tall is Mount Everest?" The sound is converted to a digital file and sent to Google's servers, which try to determine the words spoken and pass them along to the Google search engine.

The search results, which may be displayed in just seconds on a fast wireless network, will at times include local information, taking advantage of iPhone features that let it determine its location.

Speculation on the Internet seems to indicate that this will be an update to the existing Google Mobile App offering, which hasn't seen any tweaks since August 28, according to its App Store page. The Times report is unclear as to whether voice-activated search is an addendum to the capabilities that already exist in Google Mobile App or a new application entirely. The bet here is on the latter--voice-driven searches which send data back and forth to Google's servers sound like the sort of thing that would be awfully complex to shoehorn into an already full-featured search tool.

Despite the promised Friday launch, as this article went to press, the only offerings on Google's app store page remained Google Earth and the as-of-yet-not-updated Google Mobile App.

This story, "Mobile Searches to Soon Have a Voice, Thanks to Google" was originally published by Macworld.

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