Google prides itself in large scale projects, the kind that require massive computing power, complex algorithms, machine learning and so on. Its visual search/image recognition search engine/app Goggles comes to mind; its translation services are also powered by quite complex technologies.So the fact that it is Apple not Google that introduced a voice recognition, natural language input search app, more popularly known as Siri, must be frustrating for Google.
It's not just a matter of commercial appeal, of the iPhone having cooler features that Android phones, it's a matter of company pride.
It's no surprise then to hear that Google is working, quite vigorously, on a natural language, voice search app of its own.
Android phones do support voice commands, but they're only able to understand specific phrases and commands. The feature hasn't been a major hit with users.
But the latest rumors indicate that Google is working on something to put it back in the race. Codenamed Majel, the project is apparently assigned to the secretive Google X division.
Majel comes from Majel Barrett, the voice of Start Trek Enterprise's Computer, arguably the ultimate goal of technologies like this.
The fact that it's coming from Google X doesn't make it a shoot for the moon, long-term project, in fact all of the work is expected to bear fruit very soon, maybe even this year.
The technology will be able to understand natural language, i.e. you'll be able to 'talk' to your phone, just like Siri does and then process your request.
However, in the quest to have something that users can run as soon as possible, the first iterations may only be used for Google searches. But the technology will eventually be built right into Android and will have much more uses.
Of course, Google could very well extend the feature beyond Android phones or tablets. Its search engine can already interpret voice searches, adding natural language to the mix would be a huge boon. With the technology readily available, it's hard not to imagine Google using it in many of its products, especially the search-related ones.