The Future of Voice-Enabled Mobile Search Speaks for Itself

Carl Weinschenk

Search is big and mobility is big and voice-enablement is big. Thus, it goes without saying that voice-enabled mobile search will be huge.

This story, which is based on a panel at the SpeechTEK conference this week in New York City, focused more on the challenges than the potential of voice enablement of mobile search. The key is that despite the great coolness of this application, folks are extremely sophisticated and not likely to utilize services that are more hit than miss-or even if it is about equal.


The problem is that ambient noise-background conversations in restaurants or the motor of a car-can skew results. The piece also says that vocabularies must be limited. A great piece of circumstantial evidence that such issues must be dealt with is offered by Google. The company's system is geared toward American English. Users in the UK and Australia, who were apt to get comparatively poor results due to this orientation, were less likely than Americans to use the service a second time.


This clearly is the kind of high-challenge, high-potential application that can make a small company either a household word or-even better for investors-a ripe takeover target. ReadWriteWeb reports that ChaCha bested bested Google and Yahoo in voice-enabled mobile search. The test was sponsored by ChaCha. Regardless, the company must be kept in mind when discussing the nascent field.


ReadWrite Web says that ChaCha identified queries accurately in 94.4 percent of cases and returned accurate results 88.9 percent of the time. Vlingo, the app used to test Yahoo, scored at 72.2 percent and 27.8 percent, respectively. Google brought up the rear, understanding the queries 16.7 percent of the time and accurately returning results in 22.2 percent of the cases, the story says. More details about the test are offered at MSearchGroove.

Within this broad story about the battle between social media and search sites-and quite a battle it is-is a very good description of what a well-done voice search function can provide. Stephan Spencer, the president and founder of search consulting firm Netconcepts, said that there will be times when the commonly used graphical user interface (GUI) is less useful than a language user interface (LUI). This occurs, he says, "where it's much more efficient to have a conversation with a simulated personality." That personality could anticipate what the user wants or needs in a far more proactive manner than a traditional GUI.


Efficient mobile voice search will be a big deal. The key questions that must be answered in the next few years include what vendors will be the big winners, whether they are the established players or upstarts, whether the smaller companies will be bought, and how long it will take to create stable and highly reliable platforms.

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