Google voice search patent granted

Google was granted a patent today on a voice interface for searches.

There are a number of potential issues with understanding speech when trying to perform searches by voice, which are described by the patent filing.

With most speech recognition technology, there can be high error rates when the vocabulary used is large, and the amount of dialogue used is small. Those applications often need to be trained to recognize unique vocal inflections from speakers. A search query is often limited to a handful of words or less.

Voice interfaces for search engines currently limit that problem by keeping the scope of communication small, asking the searcher to choose from a limited number of categories, and drilling down to smaller categories while providing limited sets of choices.

This can cause voice search to be slow, and limited to pre-chosen categories from the search engine.

This patent application is an attempt to address those issues, by trying to decide which are the most likely words comprising the query, and searching for those.

Voice interface for a search engine
Inventors: Alexander Mark Franz, Monika H. Henzinger, Sergey Brin, and Brian Christopher Milch
Assigned to Google Inc.
United States Patent 7,027,987
Granted April 11, 2006
Filed: February 7, 2001


A system provides search results from a voice search query. The system receives a voice search query from a user, derives one or more recognition hypotheses, each being associated with a weight, from the voice search query, and constructs a weighted boolean query using the recognition hypotheses. The system then provides the weighted boolean query to a search system and provides the results of the search system to a user.

The patent points to a number of other patents that are noted as references cited. It’s an interesting list:

5 thoughts on “Google voice search patent granted”

  1. I look forward to seeing a voice search engine. I’m becoming too lazy to type keywords, I would rather just talk and say “hey Google, who won the soccer game last night?”
    Could the engine be able to reply to my question?

  2. It just might. 🙂

    I typed your question into Google a minute ago (without the “hey Google”, and it gave me these news results at the top of the search:

    World’s game takes center stage – Kansas City Star – Apr 9, 2006
    Pele makes save of dull game – Newsday – Apr 9, 2006

    So, it’s a few days late, but those are decent answers.

    This patent doesn’t seem to change the potential results that you might receive from the search engine in a significant manner. Instead, it looks to provide a potentially different way to input queries into the search engine.

    I’d imagine, based upon location with news, you might get more timely and better answers to that question than I do.

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