Google and Spoken Queries: Understanding Stressed Pronouns

Spoken Queries and Stressed Pronouns

The future of searches on the Web will likely involve spoken searches, as more and more people are connecting to the web with phones and Google has added voice search interfaces to its search on desktop computers.

I thought it was interesting when I ran across a patent that focused on a problem that might arise with those spoken queries and thought it was worth writing about because it’s something that we will need to become acquainted with as it becomes more commonplace.

When Amit Singhal showed off Google’s Hummingbird update, he gave a presentation that showed Google handling searches involving pronouns. It’s worth watching for the information about Hummingbird, but also about how Google is becoming more conversational and can handle things like stressed pronouns. The video is at:

I remembered the presentation about hummingbird and a more conversational Google, when I saw this spoken queries patent come out from Google, which explains some of the technology behind aspects of conversational search:

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The Noise Becomes the Signal – Voice Queries and Accent Scores

What May be Unique in Voice Queries?

Might a twang or a drawl influence the search results you see at Google? If you’re prone to calling an elevator a lift and tend to speak the Queen’s English in an accent similar to hers, you might see different search results than if you grew up in the Bronx or in New Orleans. If you sport a Polish accent or a Spanish one, and you perform voice searches on your phone, would receiving results in Polish or in Spanish because of your accent be a problem or a benefit? If your accent is Australian, and you search for “football” while in the US, would it surprise you to see some Australian Rules Football results returned to you?

Search engines have been using something called an Automated Search Recognition (“ASR”) engine to try to eliminate or reduce accents in voice queries by treating those as if they were noise. But the value of that noise might also be recognized as another signal that might improve search results.

A new patent was granted to Google yesterday that explores accents in voice queries in more depth. For instance, it provides this example of how a search engine might use such accent information:

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Voice Queries and Visual Queries The Future of Search?

Voice Queries and Visual Queries and Automated Assistants

I’m on the second day of a trip to New York City, giving presentations at SMX East on both the potential impact of mobile devices to the future of search, and on how reputation and authority signals might impact the rankings and visibility of authors and publishers and commentators on the Web.

My first presentation was in the “local and mobile” mobile track of the conference as part of a session titled “Meet Siri: Apple’s Google Killer?” where I joined Bryson Meunier, Will Scott, Andrew Shotland, and moderator Greg Sterling in discussing the potential impact of Apple’s Siri and voice search on SEO and search.

When I read the title for this proposed session a couple of months back, I couldn’t help but start to draft a pitch to join in on the conversation. I’ve been carefully watching patents and papers from Google and Apple and others about inventions and interfaces that might transform the way we search in the future to one focusing more upon voice queries and visual queries and also transforming the way that people might share information and market businesses online.

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Google Learning Speech Recognition for Voice Search from MTV?

How might a voice search engine learn new words that have been introduced into popular speech, such as “da shiznet,” and learn and understand different pronunciations of words, such as might be found in spoken language based upon regional differences?

A newly published patent filing from Google provides some hints.

Last April, Google was granted a patent on a Voice interface for a search engine. I wrote about it in Google voice search patent granted.

That earlier patent filing introduces a number of topics around speech recognition, and tells us about things like a language model, which could learn new words and different pronuciations.

Since then, we’ve actually seen a voice search from Google introduced at Goog 411

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Dialing Microsoft for Voice Search

Microsoft Flow Chart on Voice Search

You pick up your mobile phone, dial “888 MSN-srch*” and say “pizza.” (*warning, phone number is used for illustration purposes only.)

On your screen appears the addresses, links to web sites, and phone numbers for the closest pizza places around you.

A new patent application from Microsoft describes a way to search by voice, and receive text results by SMS message, IM, or search result listings in a web browser. While someone searching can add geographical information, such as a zip code, this system may be able to identify a location through a variety of other methods, such as GPS or cell tower triangulation.

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Google Voice Query Patent Granted

Google was granted a patent today on a voice query interface.

There are a number of potential issues with understanding speech when trying to perform searches by voice query, 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 query search to be slow, and limited to pre-chosen categories from the search engine.

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