Fans of speech recognition will be interested to hear that Yahoo! has added a voice search facility to its popular iPhone client. Disappointingly though, the new feature, which works in a similar way to the speech input within the Google Mobile App, seems to be hard of hearing.
Keen to further my knowledge of Australian music, I started by politely requesting “Kylie Minogue”. The program immediately returned an error saying it hadn’t understood me. I asked again, this time speaking louder and slower. Still nothing. After five attempts that returned errors, Yahoo! finally produced the results – for “a and aa”. Not only was this a million miles away from what I’d requested but I now looked a fool in front of the whole office. So, I thought I’d make things a bit easier for the voice recognition engine (and for my reputation) and said “hello”. Yahoo! thought I’d said “inn”. I tried “software” and it thought I said “cotton”.
I’m not sure whether it’s a general weakness in the functionality, or if it’s my refined English accent that’s causing the problem, but something’s definitely not right here. It annoys me that a company with a reputation such as Yahoo! would take the trouble to introduce such a potentially revolutionary function, and make it so poor as to be completely unusable. The voice search in Google isn’t much better, and that’s after having apparently added special support for English and Australian accents.
If you’ve managed to get the voice search in Yahoo! for iPhone working I’d be very interested to hear from you to find out what accent you have. And while you’re at it, could you find out Kylie Minogue’s tour dates for me?