What did Google rely on to beat Apple's Siri?
What did Google rely on to beat Apple’s Siri?

Voice recognition technology is critically important,not just for mobile phones,but potentially for control of lots of other devices,particularly televisions.It is still early days,but if you’re thinking about which side will win in the battle between Apple’s Siri and Google Voice Search,consider the lesson of spell check.

语音识别技术不仅对于手机产业来说至关重要,而且对很多其他设备,特别是电视机的控制来说,也十分关键。该技术目前尚处于初级阶段,但如果你在思考,到底“苹果语音助手”(Apple’s Siri)和“谷歌语音搜索”(Google Voice Search)谁会在这场竞争中取胜,那就想想拼写检查给我们的启示吧。

When Eric Schmidt was still chief executive of Google,I asked him what the company owned that would make it particularly hard for any emerging search contender to wipe Google out.Spell check,he said.Google had observed the spelling mistakes and corrections typed into billions of queries,and had a vast understanding of what people really meant when they typed like thsi.Google was able to use this knowledge to offer a”did you mean”function in search,eventually completing queries before people were finished typing.

当埃里克·施密特(Eric Schmidt)还是谷歌首席执政官的时候,我问他,谷歌到底拥有什么,能让它不被任何新出现的搜索引擎打倒。拼写检查,他回答道。谷歌仔细研究了输入查询框的数十亿信息的拼写错误和修正,因此非常清楚用户出现像“thsi”这样的拼写错误时,他们实际想要表达的意思是什么。有了这种了解,谷歌在搜索中提供了“您是不是想找”的功能,最终做到了在人们完成输入之前,就将问题补充完整。

Other companies would not be able to get that learning,he said,since people had come to expect search engines to fix their spelling.The customers would stay with Google,where that problem was solved.Microsoft Bing has proved Mr.Schmidt was not entirely correct in Google owning spell check,but it does take a company of Microsoft’s size to come at the problem.

他表示,其他公司不会有这样的学习积累,因为人们已经开始指望搜索引擎来修正他们的拼写。客户仍会继续使用已经解决了这个问题的谷歌。微软必应(Microsoft Bing)证明,施密特关于谷歌独有拼写检查功能的说法并不完全正确,但也只有微软这种规模的大公司才能应付这样的问题。

It is common around the world to use Google to check one’s spelling now,and it’s common inside Google to use that same ancillary learning on new products.


That is probably why Google Voice Search,in its Siri-like manifestation in the new Jelly Bean version of the Android operating system,appears to be winning the heart of my colleague Nick Bilton.Nick says Google Voice Search appears to have better understanding of what he’s talking about,and can answer questions better.There are also numerous videos on the Web showing its prowess.

这也许就是“谷歌语音搜索”似乎深受我同事尼克·比尔顿(Nick Bilton)追捧的原因。在安卓操作系统“软糖豆”(Jelly Bean)的升级版中,它看起来和Siri相似。尼克说,“谷歌语音搜索”对他所说的话识别能力似乎更强,而且回答问题也更出色。网上也有大量视频展示了这款产品的威力。

If Google is better,it is most likely because it has roots in a product Google introduced in 2007,called Google-411,or Google Local Voice Search.Ostensibly a product that provided free directory assistance,Google was mostly interested in capturing the way different people pronounced words.

如果说谷歌的表现更好,这极可能是因为谷歌2007年推出的一款产品为上述技术奠定了基础。这款产品名为“谷歌411“(Google-411),或称“谷歌本地语音搜索”(Google Local Voice Search)。这款产品表面上是为了提供免费信息查询,其实让谷歌最感兴趣的,是掌握不同人的发音方式。

While the Jelly Bean version of Voice Search is new,Google’s linguists have five years of data on billions of pronunciations.A year ago,just for the English language,Google had a database of 230 billion word strings,and had worked on 23 other languages,based largely on 411 and related voice-based search products,including an earlier version of Voice Search.It’s another spell check.


Apple never worked on that kind of feature,which is one reason Siri is one of the few products Apple officially released in beta form.It is building up its database of speech during Siri’s early life.Some of the cute ways Siri talks when it does not understand a question,such as repeating back what you have said,may in fact be efforts to see if you will correct its understanding,somewhat in the way Google learned spell check.Google Voice Search on Jelly Bean is starting late,but its quality advantage from all that learning beforehand is what makes it better in the early days.


That is not the only area where Google develops one product for the sake of another.The Google Goggles application on Android,which uses computer-driven image recognition to help identify an object the customer photographs,is also a product for use in connection with Google Maps.You can take a picture of a street in Goggles,and if Google Maps has taken a picture of that place with its Street View cars,it can tell you where you are.

开发一个产品是为了另一个产品,语音识别并不是谷歌这么做的唯一领域。安卓系统上的“谷歌眼镜”(Google Goggles)应用,使用电脑图像识别技术,能帮助确认用户所拍摄的物体,也是一款能与谷歌地图(Google Maps)联合使用的产品。你可以用“谷歌眼镜”拍一条街,如果谷歌地图也用“街景”(Street View)车拍过这个地点,它就能告诉你,你现在是在什么地方。


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