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April 6, 2007

Google Voice Local Search

Finally a new service at Google Labs: some people were really worried that Google's innovation went down the stairs.

Google Voice Local Search lets you search for local businesses from any phone and for free. If you're in the US, call 1-800-GOOG-411 and say what you want to find. Here are some of the features:

* You can find a business listing by category. Just say "pizza," for example.
* You can send the listing details to your mobile phone via SMS.
* The service is fully automated, so it doesn't rely on human operators.
* It connects you directly to the business, free of charge.

In the US, 411 is the phone number for local directory assistance, but it's pretty expensive (more than $1). 1-800-FREE-411 is a free service that uses speech recognition to process your request and ads to monetize it.

Google tested several years ago Google Voice Search, a service that let you search Google by voice, but it's not available anymore. There's also Google SMS: send an SMS to 466453 with your query and get business listings.

If you're in the US, which 411 is better: 1-800-FREE-411 or 1-800-GOOG-411?

Update: This service has been around for a while (it was known as 520-Find). A post from October 2006 gives some interesting overview of Google 411:
Call 1 877 466 4411 (1 877 GOOG 411) and try your luck with two voices that I've come to think of as Mr. Google Smooth and Mr. Google Hawking. They won't tell you who they are, but they seem to be the voices of Google Local Search. (...)

If you call, nothing announces that you've reached Google, but a slightly arch and apparently human Mr. Smooth informs you your call might be recorded and then asks for a city and state. Mr. Hawking then cuts in, slow, methodical, and synthetic, to repeat your query. All good? Mr. Smooth then asks for a business type or name. He does all the traffic direction--the prompting for commands, the suggestions of ways you can interact, the questions. Mr. Hawking just gets to read back your queries and read out the searches.

Actual search results described below the fold, but just some general remarks: the voice recognition is pretty good, even with some "foreign" words, but not all English words.


  1. 1-800-FREE-411 kicks. I am a raving fan of their product and just tried using the latest experimental version of GOOG-411. The speech recognition couldn't find my listing even when I narrowed the search area by entering the zip code from my kepypad. At least with 1-800-FREE-411 you can speak to an operator when the speech rec can't find your listing. They also have residential listings.

  2. There's a demo on odeo and the assistant seems helpful.

  3. Would be amazing if it could give directions. Then after it gave the first direction say "next" to hear the next.

  4. Works in Canada ewww.
    google 411 kicks azz

  5. This is truly amazing, when are they starting it outside US?


  6. These guys are killing me. I also love the SMS search feature, use it a lot.

  7. From the privacy policy:

    << If you do not have caller id blocked, we collect and store the number of your phone, along with the time of your call, each time you use the Google Voice Local Search service. We may use this phone number to distinguish you from other users, and ultimately, to personalize the service to you. If you do not wish us to record your phone number, then you may choose to block caller id for your number. For information about how to block caller id, please contact your carrier or your local phone company, as appropriate.

    We also collect and store a copy of the voice commands you make to the service, so we can audit, evaluate, and improve the voice recognition capabilities of the service.>>

    But you can't block the called ID for toll-free numbers:

    << Caller ID means you lose control over the privacy of your phone number -- unless you take advantage of the free phone number blocking options that are available to you and which are explained below. It’s important to note that these features will not work in all situations, such as when calling toll-free numbers or for emergency assistance when using the 911 system. In these cases, your telephone number will continue to be available to the person you are calling. >>

  8. Here is a list of numbers you can call to look things up. (This list includes this one too)

    Google Voice Local Search: 1-800-GOOG-411
    Free 411: 1-800-FREE411
    520-Find: 1-877-520-FIND
    TellMe: 1-800-555-TELL

  9. 1-877-520-FIND is the same as 1-800-GOOG-411. Google ran this service without disclosing it. is still available in Google Cache and you can see it's almost identical to the site from Google Labs.

  10. Anonymous: You can, in fact, block caller id on calls to toll free numbers. Now, that's not to say that you can prevent the owner of a toll free number you've called from getting your number. The difference is that they can get it through ANI *as well as* caller id. To quote the page you linked to:

    "The called party, which pays for the call, may be able to identify your phone number using Automatic Number Identification (ANI) technology."

    So, presumably Google is only using the caller id information in their system, or they're checking for it before they record the number you called from and the time. That's why it's a privacy policy instead of a tutorial in anonymous telephony.

  11. I tried Google Vocal Search for a couple things in my city and it gave good results. It gave the best pizza place as the 1. result. I liked it. I will call it if I need.

  12. try to use

  13. one problem though, mobile411 is a download-type service, these numbers you can just call to get info. although i like that it has driving directions.

  14. calling these numbers and dealing with automated menu is in itself a problem.
    That product (mobile411) is coupled with both text and voice search and will be always with you on your device no need to call just speak and search.

  15. Adding to kewl's observations -->
    In mobile411, One can always call the operator, in case she is not happy with results..

    i m just curious when are they gonna launch it..

    - Ramy...

  16. There must be some service or way to block caller I.D. for toll-free numbers. I'd be willing to pay for such a service that I could dial, preferably, with a "regular" area code which would give me a dial tone to dial a toll-free number. The caller I.D. would be fake or made up, but it would NOT BE MY NUMBER!

  17. i got kinda steamed when i found out free411 doesn't have live operators anymore, good thing a friend told me about 1-800-411-SAVE. it works in the US and Canada and real live people answer the phone. there's a short ad to listen to, but i save so much :D


    here's the vid he saw on youtube