Siri Competitor From Google May Be Here Soon

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News Posted: Thu, Dec 15 2011 3:11 PM
Same song, different verse: Google is trying to keep pace with Apple by developing a similar competing product. This time, it’s a competitor to Siri, which is codenamed “Majel”, according to a pair of reports from AndroidandMe.

Ever since Apple announced Siri, the iPhone 4S’s personal digital assistant that understands normal speech, a few months ago, the digital world has been expecting a competing product from someone big. Google makes the most sense as that someone. Rumors, of course, are flying around about Majel--what exactly it is, when we’ll see it, and if it will be better than Siri.

What is certain is that Google has made some telling acquisitions, most notably speech synthesis company Phonetic Arts (about a year ago) and Clever Sense (just this week), which makes location-based “personal robot” Alfred. Further, Google has some voice-controlled applications already, though they’re not anywhere near the level of Siri, and we know from various interview quotes from Google employees that the company has been researching and developing voice functionality and artificial intelligence capabilities for a long time.

The Majel rumors portend a tool that far exceeds Siri’s capabilities, approaching the level of the Enterprise’s AI computer, but in the near future, expectations should be kept a little more subdued. According to AndroidandMe, the initial release may include only voice-controlled Google searches, with more intelligent voice-controlled phone and application actions to follow thereafter.

That initial release, by the way, apparently may come yet this year, or early next.

Of course, this is mostly speculation; Google hasn’t commented publicly on Majel. However, it would be naive to think that Google isn’t brewing something big to compete with Siri. On the one hand, it just makes good business sense. Google has to do something because Siri is a nice tool and a big selling point for Apple going forward. However, in a larger sense, voice is a developing input method, and of course Google is going to go whole-hog in developing something to take advantage of that technology.

Beyond the early Majel releas(es), we can expect to see something Siri-like with the next major Android release. It may be a revolutionary technology, or it might just be really cool, but the slow integration of actually useful voice input (and output) on smartphones and tablets is fun to watch.

(Side note: 50 bonus points to Google for the source of the name “Majel”. Majel Barrett-Roddenberry was the voice of the computer in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and she was also Gene Roddenberry’s wife.)
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Marco C replied on Thu, Dec 15 2011 3:33 PM

She also played Counselor Troy's Mom, but you obviously knew that looking at the thumbnail. :)

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The people I know with siri just shout at their phone and wait for it to not do what they want. It's humorous. Has anyone had success with it? I could care less about either one, I want to keep what little control of my phone I have left!

Shouldn't they have used Carrie Fisher to keep with the android theme?

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Inspector replied on Thu, Dec 15 2011 4:29 PM

lol, many people just use siri to mess around with. But i like that google is working on one for the android :D.

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MHenchey replied on Thu, Dec 15 2011 4:33 PM

Drake don't you mean Anthony Daniels?

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CDeeter replied on Thu, Dec 15 2011 5:53 PM

Cool. Star Trek's computer AI was one of the reasons I got into computers, and I can see why the chose that name, but would have to agree with MHenchy C3PO would be the logical choice for a Droid phone (pun intended).

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If I can get to sound like HAL then that would be sweet!. 

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jeanbe21 replied on Thu, Dec 15 2011 6:52 PM

Majel Barrett not only voiced the computer on The Next Generation, but on The Original Series, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise as well as the movies, even the relaunched Star Trek from a few years back. Aptly named IMO.

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"I prefer Peggy Bundy's voice."

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I was just thinking female from starwars!

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JDiaz replied on Thu, Dec 15 2011 7:38 PM

Yes, she played Lwaxana Troi on STTNG, but she goes all the way back to the original series playing nurse Christine Chapel, who became Doctor Chapel in the movies, and was even on the pilot as the unnamed first officer, "Number One".

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LLeCompte replied on Thu, Dec 15 2011 8:46 PM

I want glados from portal. I want her to insult me all the time.

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Ivan92116 replied on Thu, Dec 15 2011 9:09 PM

I want it to speak like a pirate.

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ajm135 replied on Thu, Dec 15 2011 10:00 PM

While thats cool and all i wish google would not try to copy apple or defeat apple in this respect. Google is now being mocked because of this since they made the comment that we dont need to speak to our phones. Soooooo this is kinda of backtracking

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DDeveaux replied on Thu, Dec 15 2011 11:05 PM

Hey, if Apple can do it (backtrack), then I think it's fair for Google to do it once in a while.  That said, Google has offered voice search for a while, so they've been at least partially behind the "talk to your phone" idea.

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AKnudson replied on Fri, Dec 16 2011 1:34 AM

Congrats to google you guys are the best. star trek. Pro. This is really cool i have always liked the voice recognition technology. What i would like to see in voice recognition, is word document editing, completely by voice.

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Smart move by Google. We all know how Apple got a such an early start in the portable music player and tablet market that essentially no one can compete with them at the moment. Google doesn't Apple to corner yet another market.

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Well Google has been working on AI and robots for several years now. I actually heard about this well over a week ago and it is based on research that Google has been doing long before Apple bought Siri.

You guys should really check out the demo videos of Majel.

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