Smart technologies: Voice search

1. From history to nowadays

People have always had three main virtues: ability to dream, laziness and ability to dream about being even more lazy…
That’s how story begins.

One of the first who formulated “machine thinking” or artificial intelligence and also created a specific test was Alan Mathison Turing the creator of Turing test which he described in his article “Computing machinery and intelligence” (1950). Test in simply words looks like that – we have a judge who asks questions and evaluates the answers. In other room, so that judge couldn’t see, we have a normal person and a machine. Both answer questions and then judge evaluates the answers trying to understands whether answer belongs to a human or machine. So if machine’s answers will be counted as a human answers then we might think that machine passed the test and can be an intelligent. Of course question set is built on the difficult questions like “what is meaning of life”, “what is death”, etc.


So far still in our year 2014 no machine did pass this test.

1.1 Voice search

“Google voice search” or modern newer android implementation of it “Google now”, “iOS Siri” and “Bing voice search” systems are familiar to many smartphone mobile device owners. Simply that kind of systems can be logically divided into two separate systems.

Speech recognition
The first one is a speech recognition which is responsible for translation of spoken words into text. first device capable to understand at list something of human speech was “Audrey” system (Automatic Digit Recognition) developed by Bell laboratories in 1952. Although it could understand a human speech with a good accuracy rate, it only could recognize digits from 0 to 9. After that IBM and other companies decided to develop their own systems.

Natural language processing
The other part of the Voice search is “natural language processing” system. One which actually understands the meaning of what was told in a context and if needed able to delegate some work to web services like google maps. This one has roots in a simple chat-bot. One of the first successful representatives of chat bot systems was ELIZA – a chat bot developed by Joseph Weizenbaum between 1964 and 1966 at MIT. Later he wrote a book “Computer Power and Human Reason” which includes overview and explanations about that system.

2. Market overview

  • 2008 – Google Voice search
    So in a chronological order everything have been started in 2008 with google voice search which only takes voice input and pastes it to text box of search engine, and only search result were shown like it would have been done with simple input from keyboard.
  • 2010 – Bing Voice search
    Later Microsoft releases its’ own Bing voice search in 2010, which has the same functionality as google voice search. These application were nothing else than just a voice input system, so they fully rely on search engines.
  • 2011 – iOs Siri
    Situation was changed with iOS Siri in 2011. This one is something more than just input processing software, it have a natural language processing system, which means that it doesn’t straight send the phrase input to search engine, but it is trying to understand a context of what has been said. So, this one was first in the market. Of course some kind of similar apps were before available and even Siri itself wasn’t initially developed by Apple, but this one had a great marketing support, it has much greater abilities than any of the apps developed by other companies.
  • 2012 – Google Now
    One year later Google released “Google now” – their own software virtual assistant.
  • 2014 – Microsoft Cortana
    Together with update 8.1 for windows phones Microsoft is planning to ship their own Virtual assistant named Cortana.

3. Technology overview

Idea of that kind of software is simply awesome. More than that it is really good, that this kind of technologies already available to people nowadays and of course consumer interest pushes further developments.There are some obstacles of course. Time to time phrase might be not understood correctly. One of the issues is learning curve. You have to learn how to use this applications. The other thing is that sometime it is much faster or handy simple type your query into search engine text box.

Artificial Intelligence?

It is quite important to understand that the term “Artificial Intelligence” can be approached from different perspectives.

If we think about science, then we are trying to build non-organic brain, a very smart machine and we tend to expect, that machine will adapt to real world environment. That’s why no machine still passed the Turing test and scientists don’t have much promising results in that field.

But if we approach the term from engineering point of view, where we don’t care if machine really can think as long as is does the job in a right way. Then we are talking not necessary about smart, we can even think about “stupid robot agent”. And we’re not expecting that agent to adapt to real world environment – in fact we build a special environment, which is very friendly to him, it is structured, defined, rule-driven and easy explainable. In the result that “stupid robot agent” behave smart in that environment. In that sense we have outstanding results. The Siri in the environment of search engine, movie database, maps application – behave quite smart, thus can be viewed as “engineering Artificial Intelligence”.

Own devs

Echo Lynx is a product of my own developments. It is planned as a control over voice system.