Google’s data head start over Apple’s Siri

“Google-411, or Google Local Voice Search [is] ostensibly a product that provided free directory assistance, [however] Google was mostly interested in capturing the way different people pronounced words,” Quentin Hardy reports for The New York Times.

“While Voice Search is new, Google’s linguists have five years of data on billions of pronunciations,” Hardy reports. “A year ago, just for the English language, Google had a database of 230 billion word strings, and had worked on 23 other languages, based largely on 411 and a related voice-based search product.”

Hardy reports, “Apple never worked on that kind of feature, which is one reason Siri is one of the few products Apple officially released in beta form. It is building up its database of speech during Siri’s early life. Some of the cute ways Siri talks when it does not understand a question, such as repeating back what you have said, may in fact be efforts to see if you will correct its understanding.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple’s Siri gets below-average grade in accuracy from Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster – June 29, 2012
With Siri and new alliances, Apple takes on Google search – June 21, 2012
Nine auto makers partner with Apple for ‘Eyes Free’ Siri integration – June 12, 2012
Apple takes aim at Google with new in-house Maps with amazing Flyover, even smarter Siri – June 12, 2012
Apple files motion to dismiss Siri lawsuits – May 16, 2012
Apple hit with second class-action lawsuit over Siri intelligent personal assistant – March 30, 2012
Apple files Siri trademarks, faces lawsuit alleging ‘misleading’ Siri ads – March 21, 2012


  1. Google is beyond creepy. The idea that one corporation has the kind of data and so much personal information about so many people makes J Edgar Hoover look like a saint.

    I have already stopped using them as a primary search engine and use as little of their products and services as I can.

    I am repulsed by that country and I can’t stand it’s new army of Android fans.

    1. although you didn’t state why you think Google is creepy, I can guess that you are paranoid about data collection of any sort. Have you renewed your aluminum foil hat to keep the aliens from your thoughts?

  2. I like Google’s products and services. I like Apple’s products and services also. Apple captures information as well to make their products and services work better. If you think they’re not you’re in for a rude awakening. Every time anyone in particular asks Siri a question, it is storing what YOU specifically asked to make YOUR experience better.

    I have no problem with this. I don’t fear companies as much as I fear the government. Companies don’t want to control you. They don’t have guns and armies of enforcers looking over your shoulder. They just want you to like them enough to buy their crap. It’s when companies start working with the Government that I get concerned.

    I have never used Google’s voice search. I use Siri all the time. It seldom fails me. Some of the questions asked in the recent Siri vs. Android test were very bullshitty, which I suppose Google is better at because of the above.

    I tend to just open Siri and say, “Directions to Leimert Park.” Or “Directions to New York City.” It does just fine. I contain my requests to as little extraneous language as possible. I don’t even say, “Sir” cause she likes to answer “Here” which makes me laugh and the whole thing has to start over.

    Siri is the first thing I talk to in the morning and the last thing at night. In the morning I just say, “Today” and it reads me my calendar. At night I just say, “Wake me up at 05:30am” and it sets an alarm.

    1. “Some of the questions asked in the recent Siri vs. Android test were very bullshitty, which I suppose Google is better at because of the above.” or maybe Google is just more fluent in B.S.

    2. I agree.

      I don’t even care that a company tracks my activities online for advertising purposes.

      I mean how horrible it was to be on MDN one morning and see an ad for a tool sale at a place I shop that I had no idea was going on! I was so upset over this invasion of privacy that I bought $150 worth of tools at the sale! Those bastards!

      If you truly want devices and services over the web that work great and understand you , then naturally those companies will need some kind of data about you.

      governments collecting this stuff scare me, google trying to figure out that I might be interested in a sale at Northern Tools does not concern me that much, in fact sometimes I like finding out about a good deal!

      1. I’m in Los Angeles, so it says, “I couldn’t find any places matching Carnegie Hall.”

        If I as, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall in New York, it tells me it found 5 places matching Carnegie Hall. The first one is the real one, and if I tap it, it gives me cross country driving directions.

    1. I think if the crap really hits the fan then it won’t matter who you are doing business with, the government will take the data when they need it.

      If you truly worried about it then I suggest going through proxies, using encryption online and not even carrying a smart phone. Get a dumb phone on a prepaid carrier and pay cash.

      No ‘privacy policy’ with any business is going to stop the government if they truly want your data.

      1. @ Really

        No, no. You have it all wrong. Only Obama would do such a thing. Or other libtard, un-American commies.

        MDN, please, please, please remove this stupid political comment from me. But when you do so, please also remove all the other stupid political comments.

        1. Sorry to say, Seamus, that would be equivalent to asking wetness to be removed from water.

          Some things can never change, most notably the knee jerk reactions of indoctrinated agents of the Status Quo. Of all truths, the Buddha insists this one is paramount: beliefs are riveted to the soul by laziness.

    2. “Won’t” in your sentence seems to indicate that you believe they aren’t already. Considering the “internet savvy” and willingness to stretch the powers bestowed on the executive branch, that this white house has displayed, I would find it unlikely they aren’t doing it already.

      1. And what, you think the last one didn’t? The one whose crowning achievement was the Patriot Act?

        Grow up. All governments abuse power, and always will. Doesn’t matter who wins. The only thing that friends on the winner is whether we will see ‘morality’ legislated it not. And, quite frankly, I’d rather be left to decide what is ‘moral’ for my family and me than have some out-of-touch grey- haired rich man make that decision for me.

        And to that I’ll just say, show me one Republican president in the last 100 years who didn’t try to cram his moral and religious beliefs down the throats if Americans (and often the rest of the world too).

        1. Taking someone’s money and spending it for them is a form of morality.

          Government spends your tax money on police. If they shoot innocent students (kent state) or arrest convict and imprison innocent people, or fight wars you don’t believe in, or fund abortions and you don’t like that, or hand money to political, religeous, or ideological groups you oppose, then too bad.

          Both democrats and republicans do vile things I oppose. I’m not fool enough to think either party really represents me. I prefer the one that gets out of my way the most and currently that’s republicans but only by a slim margin.

  3. Google have 5+ years lead on Apple on different pronunciations of words? I call BS.

    Clearly the author never heard of Casper. Apple shipped in AUGUST 1993 an application that did voice commands for the Mac. It supported multiple languages and was quite accent tolerant. In its release it was demonstrated as working well with people speaking English words with Spanish & “Mexican” & German & UK English accents. In the following weeks and months it was demonstrated to be tolerant of even more accents.

    Was it perfect? No. No voice interaction system is even close to perfect.

    However, to say that Google is 5+ years ahead of Apple on this is flatly wrong as Apple has been working in this area since 1992 or before!

    1. You are wrong sir. Massive samples for Siri didn’t start until Siri came online. There were samples for the system available I’m sure from the original developers of Siri, but nothing like what Google had. Who the heck ever used Casper?

      1. It’s possible Google has more samples but Apples iOS is huge and vastly larger and even more vastly coherent and homogenous OS version. If Google has any sort of lead it will evaporate and be completely gone in a year or two and then Apple will have Google left far in the dust.

        Siri will work in all major languages in most of the world and it’s hardly a stretch to imagine it will have a major impact on googles future revenues. It depends on what Apple decides to do with it.

      2. I believe that the difference here is that Apple will use its acquired data to create a better user experience, while Google will use it to sell your ass to the highest bidder.

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the speech recognition element in Siri is handled by Nuance, and Apple handles the interpretation of the logic in the speech after Nuance has made sense of it. (with the Nuance software residing on Apple servers, for the privacy minded). Accordingly, the speech recognition, that this person is saying Google has a lead in, actually Apple has a lead in by licensing the best speech recognition software on the planet. Bad writing

  5. I call BS plane and simple. They are just trying to beat their own worthless drum, and put down Apple at the same time. No one but Apple knows what they have data on, and they will keep it that way, because Apple doesn’t spew out crap statistics.

    1. Context and meaning and intent and technology — consider this: we don’t even have technology in place to correct written typos on the web. Why aren’t our Macs (or their PCs) looking at what we type and interpreting, so as to help compatriots like Danilko1 overcome typos, replacing “plane and simple” with “plain and simple?”

      We expect Siri to get 99.99% recognition and 100% intent recognition. Most people don’t speak with sufficient precision to warrant that kind of accuracy, nor to warrant concern when Siri can’t understand.

  6. “Some of the cute ways Siri talks” may, in fact, be her sly, insidious approach. She’s hustling you, fool! Google doesn’t have a chance in Hell against that…

  7. How much us Nuance ahead of Google on speech technology and word sampling ? That’s the question. (I’d say more than 10 years) Apple isn’t inventing everything it delivers. It’s just taking the geekness out of otherwise mature technology.

  8. Some history (with source citations removed in order to make WordPress happy):

    Dragon Systems, the source company for the code owned by Nuance, was started in 1982. (Kurzweil Applied Intelligence speech recognition began the same year). Dragon was sold and passed around in 2000, ending up the property of ScanSoft, who changed their name to Nuance in 2012.

    Apple’s first speech technology was built into the first Mac in 1984. But Apple’s speech recognition was not released until 1993 via PlainTalk.

    Google began as a research project in 1996 and was first publicly traded in 2004. In 2006 Google published a trillion word speech database.

    Siri was incorporated in 2007. Their speech recognition engine was provided by Nuance. Apple bought Siri in 2010. Apple introduced their beta of Siri for iPhone in October, 2011.

    1. IOW: I’d say its Nuance who has a hell-of-a bigger head start in speech recognition as well as the more mature software.

      The real competition is regarding data interpretation and response, which is what Siri actually does. Everything else is peripheral.

      1. IOW: The NY Times article has some interesting information, but it ends up a blundering MESS, even after its published corrections, because it is completely ignorant of the speech recognition technology provided to Siri via Nuance/Dragon.

        Again: The real competition is in data interpretation and response, NOT speech recognition.

  9. Anyone who has used Google Voice knows that this “5 year head start” is utter crap.

    I get messages every day mis-transcribed as to be utterly hilarious and completely useless.

    Favorite: “Hey, tomato this is fried chicken. You want a molasses are back forty. Call modulator.”

    Not kidding. Good luck with that great head start, GOOG!

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