Google’s New Android Voice Search/Actions Review

By | 2010-08-14

The new Android Voice Search/Actions app that Google released this past week, is meant to be an improvement over the included voice command app that comes with a Android phone like the Nexus One.  They seem to have added some new voice commands, though the voice commands for Android have never been documented well anywhere I could find, and I’ve looked.

I’d really like to know what demographic this voice recognition software is supposed to work well for, other than perhaps the people that have tested it at Google labs.  For me, an English speaking Canadian, it works surprisingly poorly.  I’ve tried every single version of English that they list in the phone settings, and some work “better” than others, but with all the commands, none work perfectly, or close to it.

I would say English speaking Caucasian Canadians have the same dialect and accent as west coast Caucasians in the USA, who are obviously a large percentage of the US population.  Yet the phone has a “Canadian English” recognition setting that doesn’t work as well as the “US English” setting.  Again I wonder what differences they built in that make it work not as well.

For me, the only voice command features that work reasonably well are “directions/maps” and “note to self”.  Under no circumstances will the “send text to” or “send email to” place the person’s name in the send field.  For me it places the name in the body of the message with the message body text, skipping over the send field every time, using every single English dialect version.  Making these functions totally worthless.  Transcribing the message body text is good enough for hands free to get the message across to the person.  But don’t expect it to look up the person’s name, or place that name in the correct field, unless you are the lucky few like the guy in the help video.

I have used the voice transcription service for text in the body of a text message on occasion till now, and it has worked fairly well, but I have always found it to be on the slow side and I can sometimes type the message faster than waiting for the transcription to take place and then edit any errors.  But it would depend on your need to be hands free.  And since it is done by the Google servers not on your phone, your type of data connection plays a part in this delay as well.

Using the “call” command is beyond useless.  Unlike other voice dialling apps I have used over the years, it doesn’t give you the often to check the name it finds before dialing it.  And once again for me, it never gets the name right, so no second kick at the cat here.  The voice command “Call David <lastname> mobile” will call “The University of Manitoba” every single time I say it, no matter how I pronounce it, or my distance from the mic.  At the very least Google, offer an option to display the caller before dialing, especially when it works this poorly.

And I think the lamest thing of all (if all this isn’t lame enough) is that the music app that comes with Google’s own Nexus One phone does not work with the new “listen to” voice command.  This command is intended to call up the music of your choice.  What it does do it brings up a list of non-Google music apps that apparently do work with Google’s new music search feature.  But not their own music app.  How incredibly poor is that?!  To say they should find that embarrassing is an understatement.  How could they not add this obvious feature into their own prized phone that gets all the newest software first.  Hang your heads Google software engineers, and who ever is in charge of the release of this app.

So like all voice recognition apps, it’s no more than an annoying toy, with only a few voice commands that will work some of the time for the average speaker like myself.  Whatever happened to the old idea of offering a training feature for improving the voice recognition for the individual that is using it?  After all, they are scrapping our personal data from this and all data that goes through their servers for focusing ads on us, and for whatever else they care to use it for (it says so in the Term & Conditions and Privacy docs.)  You’d think they’d want as many people to use this thing as possible.

This app is getting way too much attention this past week.  So overall, I think it’s a toy, and not a good one at that, I give it a 5/10.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.