Siri Competitor From Google May Be Here Soon

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.)
Tags:  Apple, Google, Siri, Majel