We’ve known that Google has been working on a competitor to Apple’s Siri for quite some time. A few months ago, it became known that it’s been in development under the name Majel, an homage to Star Trek.
TechCrunch is now reporting, without naming sources, that it will simply be called Assistant, and will go beyond what Siri does so far. “I have no idea whether that name was scrapped but do know that ‘Assistant’ is not a part of GoogleX as Majel was,” reports Alexia Tsotsis.
Google X would be that “secret robot lab” of Google’s
She says her source has indicated that it’s being developed by the Android team, but that Google’s Amit Singhal (of the search division) is involved, that’s it’s about gathering data, adding a personalization layer, and that it’s about accomplishing goals, rather than just returning search results.
Google does already have voice search for that.
In 2010, Google acquired Phonetic Arts, a speech synthesis company that generates natural computer speech from samples of recorded voice.
“In Star Trek, they don’t spend a lot of time typing things on keyboards—they just speak to their computers, and the computers speak back,” said Google Speech Technology Manager Mike Cohen at the time. “It’s a more naturalway to communicate, but getting there requires chipping away at a range of hard research problems. We’ve recently made some strides with speech technologies and tools that take voice input: for example, we launched Voice Search, Voice Input and Voice Actions for mobile phones, allowing you to speak web searches, compose emails by voice, ask your phone to play any song, and more. And last year we started automatically transcribing speech to produce captions on YouTube videos.”
But Phonetic Arts comes in when you start talking about computers talking back to you – voice output as opposed to input – kind of like Siri, though Google has offered some things in this area since long before Siri came to the iPhone. Examples include features in Google Translate and Maps Navigation.
Soon, there will be a lot of new examples, from the sound of it.
One big difference between Google’s Assistant and Apple’s Siri, according to Tsotsis’ report, is that developers will be able to utilize Assistant for their own concepts.
Of course, Google’s lack of a Siri competitor hasn’t stopped developers from trying to create their own counterparts for Android users. One recently revealed example of this would be Utter:
It’s cool, but projects like this may be largely a waste of time as Google prepares its own solution.