Google unveils new voice powered search function

August 14, 2013 7:11:45 PM PDT
Google made an announcement Wednesday that brings us a step closer to science fiction. The new feature lets you ask your computer an ordinary question, and get an answer in plain English.

To the characters in Star Trek, talking to a computer is commonplace. But down here on Earth, we still usually type in searches with a keyboard.

But there are a few Trekkies working at Google.

"The Star Trek computer is a big motivator for us," Google Engineering VP Scott Huffman said.

The data for Google's new search features comes mostly from your Gmail account and your calendar. The instant response comes from years of research.

"We've had some great advances recently using something called neural network technology that really uses many thousands of Google's computers all together to process your utterance and understand what it means," Huffman said.

It's designed to make checking a flight time or tracking a package instantaneous. It works on any device, as long as you're logged into Google.

The new search features will roll out to most users over the span of a few days. Some folks who've already gotten their first taste say they're pretty impressed.

"If you can use my data in a way that makes my experience better, then I'm all for that," Google user Joe McCann said.

And TechCrunch writer Josh Constine says it's futuristic, but functional.

"You're going to be able to ask it all sorts of questions and feel like you're in sci-fi," he said. "But I think after a while, we're just gonna feel like it's natural."

It is different from Apple's assistant, Siri.

"Siri's a little more sassy," one Google user said. "This needs to talk back."

But Google doesn't want that.

"Google's trying to be your assistant and get things done for you as quickly as possible, as opposed to trying to be your buddy or your friend," Huffman said.

We all know what happens when a computer becomes too human.

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