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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.

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