Forget Siri: Google Voice Phone Searches May Display Results on TV

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Apple’s latest phone has a slick voice control feature named Siri that lets you tell your phone to do a number of different things, and can even power searches that it will answer for you. There’s been some speculation that type of verbal interaction might harm Google because it would bypass the search advertisements that are Google’s primary way of earning money. Looks like Google isn’t taking that possibility lightly.

Will the future of searching involve speech based searches that we do on our phones, with results shown on our TV? A Google patent application describes the possibility.

Images from the Google patent showing someone asking their phone when Seinfeld is on with the answers displayed on the large screen TV in front of them, and another image showing a flow of a voice search sent to a search engine and then a TV screen.

Imagine picking up your smartphone, and calling your TV to ask it to search for “all movies with Steve McQueen,” or when “Dr. Who” might be showing next.

The patent application describes how a smartphone app might enable voice searches to show results on internet enabled televisions or televisions that use an internet enabled set-top box or DVD player or similar device connected to a television, so that your phone and TV can interact in a meaningful way.

The remote control request might be made real time while watching television, or from a distance and ahead of time. For example, you could ask for “Bowling for Dollars” to be turned on while you are driving home, and the request might be sent to your TV while you’re about a 1/4 mile away, so that your television turns on and tunes in to the proper channel as you’re walking through your front door. You could also ask your phone, “what time is Wild Kingdom on” and see scheduled times on your phone, and choose one to be later shown on your TV, or set it to record on a personal video recorder.

It’s also possible that you could use a speech to text application on your phone to perform searches on the internet and browse different sites, viewing the searches and the sites on your TV.

The patent application is:

Television Remote Control Data Transfer
Invented by Pierre-Yves Laligand, John H. Grossman, IV, Alok Chandel, Michael J. LeBeau
Assigned to Google
US Patent Application 20110313775
Published December 22, 2011
Filed: May 19, 2011


A computer-implemented method for information sharing between a portable computing device and a television system includes receiving a spoken input from a user of the portable computing device, by the portable computing device, submitting a digital recording of the spoken query from the portable computing device to a remote server system, receiving from the remote server system a textual representation of the spoken query, and automatically transmitting the textual representation from the portable computing device to the television system.

The television system is programmed to submit the textual representation as a search query and to present to the user media-related results that are determined to be responsive to the spoken query.

The patent actually provides a fairly detailed description of how this process might work as a whole, with a speech to text converter on a smart phone or another portable device interacting with computers on some centralized network system, interacting with a computerized system on a TV or an accessory device connected to a television such as a set top box or Blue Ray/DVD player.

This patent is actually an updated version of an earlier patent application named “Computer to Computer Communication” (US serial number 61/346,870) that expired on May 22, 2010. Both filings take advantage of the benefits of the structure and function and form of different types of computing devices to help them work together.

For example, it’s easier to perform speech based searches on a smart phone that you carry around with you then it is to try those searches on a television that you normally don’t sit too close to most of the time. It’s also more optimal to see the results of those searches on the larger display of a desktop computer or a television screen.

This type of setup also brings about the possibility of, for instance, hearing about something on the news that you want to find out more about, and pulling out your phone for a search to show the results on your large screen.

The patent application is silent on whether or not advertising might also be part of this process.

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57 thoughts on “Forget Siri: Google Voice Phone Searches May Display Results on TV”

  1. The Apple TV will likely do this automatically with it’s use on iOS devices via AirPlay or display mirroring. Google is still wishing and hunting for something that’s not copying or behind what Apple has done.

  2. There’s an easy work around for that.

    Currently, ads are displayed with results on the page.

    In the case of audio searching, there would simply be a delay while you listen to an advertisement before your results appeared. Similar to radio.

    Now the conversion rate of an ad like that may require some serious spit testing to make them convert, but with Google ability to track what you like, one could only assume that it would be based around your search history as are other methods of advertising.

    Interesting, they push further into our lives…yet again.


  3. Hi Bill,
    Seems we are getting there….will be fun and what we saw in movies not that long ago is really going to happen. Ad should be there for sure.

  4. Hi my problem is that Google Voice search or their voice recognition engine currently sucks. Would be awesome if they could acquire or even get better technology than siri’s core?

  5. This is very interesting. Thing is I am not sure how Google will implement this on something simple like the Apple TV. Problem with Google is that it’s too focused on copying Apple, like Android, but still for a lot of things iOs has that perfect integration with hardware that Android doesn’t have.
    I am a proud owner of Android, but I have to admit that sometimes it pisses me off the lack of integration between software and hardware. So I’m afraid on how Google will integrate this cool thing in one of its products. But of course I am curious, like I am for any new things in technology.
    thanks for sharing this.

  6. Hi grwww,

    Chances are that Apple will come up with some kind of similar functionality. Right now, Apple does outsource their language recognition to another vendor instead of having done that kind of work themselves. They also don’t have the search data that Google does to fuel the kinds of web searches described within the patent either that could extend this interaction beyond just controlling a television and searching through a program guide. But I expect that the user experience that they will likely come up with will be pretty smooth.

    Google does have voice control on Android phones already, but not to the level of sophistication that Apple does. Google is hard at work on a much improved voice control system by the name of Majel, which could be interesting. They may be following in Apple’s footsteps, but it’s hard to deny that Apple set the bar pretty high.

  7. Hi Sylvain,

    If you look at the fastcompany link in my comment above, they refer to some Star Trek movie scenes where Scottie is talking to his computer. Hard not to think of that when reading about this kind of speech to text input and computer to computer communication.

    We may see ads on this kind of setup. I see plenty on my comcast channel guide these days.

  8. Hi Mark

    I don’t know. I find myself getting annoyed when I’m put on hold for a customer service related call, and I’m piped in commercials that I have to listen to while waiting. I’m not sure that would work well. I would think Google would prefer to show visual ads as well, like they do before you watch videos at YouTube, for instance.

  9. Hi Dewaldt,

    I suspect that Google’s voice search and voice recognition is probably better (and getting better every day) than Apple’s at this point (Apple supposedly uses a third party vendor to supply them with that technology).

    It is an area where Google seems to have invested a lot of time and effort upon, and I’ve seen more than a couple of patents from them on things that they may be doing to improve upon those areas. Google also collected a lot of voice data in their Google 411 service, for purposes of improving upon voice recognition, so they have a lot of data to use to make those technologies better.

  10. Hi Alessio,

    From what I’ve read in the patent filing, this type of interaction between smartphone, network server and internet connected TV or TV appliance would have to run through just a Google TV set top box, but could work with a number of devices that might be capable of receiving data from the Web.

    One of the best things about Apple products is their tight integration with other products and services that they offer, but that often comes with higher prices and often limited options. One of the best things about Android devices is that they offer a much wider range of products and capabilities, but that often comes not such a great integration.

    I think the important aspect of this particular invention is that the search “service” would be run on a Google server that would handle the voice search and the display of results, so that the particular phone you were using or the particular TV or TV appliance that it would communicate with wouldn’t have much of an impact upon the service itself.

  11. As we come to the end of the year and people start talking about what will be big in 2012 I’m surprised sppeech recognition software isn’t being talked about a lot more.

    The biggest drawback on mobile devices, phones, tablets etc. is the need for a traditional or touchscreen keyboard. Once we get a totally reliable voice recognition systems will we still need keyboards?

    Drawback to this though, will we end up packed in to soundproof work areas, be trained to speak quietly and become completely insular?

  12. I can’t wait for this to become a reality. I have siri now on my iphone, it is cool but it needs a lot of improvement. I am thinking and hoping Google can lead the way in this area.

  13. wooww if its really happen its going to be a super fun as i will never miss any serial, we dont have to spend so much time on net to search all movie of xyz director, actor

  14. Terry.. I’m surprised more people are not talking about ppeech recognition software as well. This is clearly the next big thing. Moving away from the mouse and keyboard to voice and eventually thought recognition is the future. Some day we will think back about “typing” and think about it being as crazy as the horse and carriage.

  15. Is sounds like cool features on giving instruction to Television as well which can recognize your word. I think it would improve the importance of T.v ads as people would see short advertisement on it, if they are interested then they would search instantly on phone with their spoken word.

  16. We are definitely on track with catching up with our favorite sci-fi movies, except that there were no ads in Star Trek 🙂 (but definitely in the latest sci-fi movies).

  17. I suspect this patent represents one element of technology development that will continue to blur the line between different media outlets and how we receive content. Our mobile phone are already combined with computers. As this progresses the radio’s in our cars will be computers that get content from satellites or land based antennae. The major difference is that all content will be interactive rather than passive.

    This patent offers an additional way for us interact with ‘traditional passive’ media.

  18. Voice based services on a broader user base make me scary

    If you are blind it is great

    But if you use it for identification you can use it for phone tracking – combining internet use and phone use trackings

  19. Just another reason I love Google.

    Bill I agree with you that Google’s voice search and voice recognition is probably better than Apple’s. I just picked up a Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.0 ICS and I must say the speech recognition for texting, search, etc. is almost instant and is usually 95% correct. You can’t speak to Siri like a normal person and get correct results, you have to break up words into fragments.

  20. I feel like this is going to usher in a new level of interaction in homes. I was getting fond of Siri, but Google’s system is continually impressive.

  21. It’s interesting to think about the implications of this technology for those with limited mobility or other impairments. With speech-to-text capability and the larger viewing space of a TV screen, I’d imagine many computing tasks will become much easier and more convenient.

  22. I have to agree with some of the previous comments that Google voice is remarkably better than Siri. I think overall the strengtrh of Apple’s brand and the novelty of the iphone is what will continue moving Siri forward. There are countless products that Google specifically has come out with that were disastrous flops. At Apple’s keynote,when they were introducing Siri, I immediately thought it was a game changer for search.

  23. For me, Siri is not as reliable as what most people think because Siri is having a hard time recognizing other speech accent than American accent. And I think voice controlled gadgets wouldn’t be that useful and reliable. I still go for the “traditional way” of searching, which is typing of keywords, because even if I commit wrong spelling, for example, Google gives spelling suggestions. But of course I like the idea of Google Voice Phone Searches, but I hope it will work for all kind of users.

  24. Google Voice Would Do Wonders. I Have also tried the same on Google Currents. I Works Like a Flare. The Basic Criteria for Google is it Integrates its mechanisms across all its platform making it useful and its viral as well. So hence if Google TV gets it then Apple has again something to watch out as well and the base version of Siri is derived by Nuance hence it would require an extended effort.

  25. Voice search has a way to go before I see it being a big game changer, but it will be interesting to see how it impacts SEO over time. Right now, it seems like a novelty service.

  26. Too bad the Google TV platform released in partnership with Logitech earlier this year turned out to be a complete flop. That would have been the ideal test vehicle for this sort of tech.

  27. Hi Jonathan,

    Definitely the kind of competition that I like to see, that may bring us better options than if there wasn’t any at all. 🙂

  28. Hi Terry,

    I’m not sure that we will see keyboards going away, but I agree with you about a rapid growth in the use of voice recognition and voice search. I also expect remote controls/game controllers that have a voice component to them as well, that can be used with larger screens from a distance.

    Interesting thoughts on how something like this could change workspaces. 🙂

  29. Hi Rohit

    I would really love the ability to search by director or producer, by genre (science fiction, mystery, etc), by actors, and more as well, right on my television. I’m looking forward to it.

  30. Hi Dennis,

    I remember typewriters. 🙂 Computers were a great advance, even if they still had keyboards. I’m not sure that I’m ready to writing via voice recognition.

  31. Hi Alex,

    I often search through other channels while commercials are playing. I could see having a searchable program guide alone as a great improvement.

  32. Hi Eliseo

    I’m wondering if I would spend more time watching TV if it were a lot easier to search for things to watch. I might. Not sure if that’s a good thing.

  33. Hi Dan,

    The computerization of devices that didn’t have computers in them before, and the convergence of different types of computing devices opens up a lot of possibilities. I think it will expand into areas outside of media as well.

  34. Hi D. Lux,

    It seems like there are more and more applications being developed for phones that can do things that we might not have considered or anticipated even a few years ago. Some of them may have implications for privacy, and a number of them do today that might not be widespread public knowledge.

  35. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for your impressions on the difference between Apple’s voice recognition and Androids. I haven’t had the chance to personally compare the two.

  36. Hi Travis,

    I’m wondering what kind of computerized devices we might see in rooms like our kitchens as well. My coffee maker is programmable. I’m wondering how long before my refrigerator is, and when I’ll be able to phone my fridge and tell it to start dinner.

  37. Hi Kentaro,

    Really good points. I do know a few people with significant visual impairments who might just love being able to use both voice search/recognition and very large displays. I imagine setups like this could help give many people better access to technology that they had in the past.

  38. Hi David,

    It is going to be interesting seeing what kind of impact voice search might have, and whether or not Google can meet the expectations that people might have for Siri.

  39. Hi Geraldine,

    Speech recognition is a pretty big challenge when you start thinking about all of the different accents that a search engine might face. Google has done a lot of work on search in many different languages, but will they be able to do as well when it comes to a voice search? I hope so.

  40. Hi Udit,

    It does appear that Google is seriously working on building a platform where different services can integrate with each other. I’m not sure how successful they will be at it, but if they are it could present quite a challenge to Apple.

  41. Hi Ashley,

    I’m not sure that we can ignore how many people have started using Siri with their iPhones. Voice Search might still be a novelty at this point, but with each success like Siri, it moves closer and closer to the mainstream.

  42. Hi Alex,

    I couldn’t help but think about the failure of Google TV and Logitech when reading this patent, and wondering if the kind of interaction between phone and TV is something that could rescue Google’s attempts at set top boxes. Google’s acquisition of Motorolla Mobility, who seem to have a pretty strong set top box division might also help.

  43. It is going to be Siri-like stuff on everything, not only an iPhone. Think about cars (already have voice-rec navi’s and menu-control), TV’s (seems to be the next step) and home-entertainment as a whole, microwaves, fridges and others will follow.

  44. This is great, with all these competition the one that will surely benefit are the consumers. More competition less price tags. Now that is something to look up to.

  45. Hi Eric,

    Hopefully competition will mean lower prices. Unfortunately, sometimes prices are based upon what people are willing to pay, though.

  46. No, I can’t imagine picking up my smartphone and calling my TV to ask it to search for movies. This sounds like madness to me. Just kidding. Modern technology…geese. Thanks for sharing this awesome article.

  47. Hi Vernette,

    Thank you. It does seem silly to phone your TV, but being able to find something that you want to watch through a voice search is pretty interesting. I’m not sure that we need to wonder if this will happen, but rather possibly when.

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