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Aug 13, 2010
Anand Srinivasan

Google Voice Actions – Cool Feature But Is It Useful?

There was a lot of hype (well, not a lot, but still) surrouding Google’s mobile event scheduled for August 12. Since Google had mentioned “a couple of cool features“, we guessed there were two and that those could be a video calling feature a-la FaceTime as well as a device locator feature like ‘Find my iPhone’.

Alas, it turned out be neither and instead, Google has launched a new ‘Voice Actions‘ feature for Android 2.2 and above. This feature will allow users to navigate to various apps by simply talking to the phone. So next time you want to send a text message to your dad, just speak out ‘Send text to Dad’ and your Android phone will send the message to your contact named ‘Dad’. On similar lines, you may launch songs, voice calls, websites, find directions,etc. simply by speaking to your phone.

Is this cool? Maybe. But is it useful? I doubt. For one thing, such voice based applications have been tried in the past as well and one major trouble is in these applications understanding the semantics of what the user wants. The user is going to try the app as long as the novelty exists but is soon going to get tired of the software’s inability.

Even if Google had in fact ironed out these issues, another major issue to deal with is privacy. Users really do not want the world to know who they want to message to, or what website to visit. With features like ‘Recent contacts’, ‘drop down address bar’,etc. available on most phones today, navigating is not really a difficult proposition and most users love to do it the conventional way. The only area where this may be really useful is in the GPS application while the user may be comfortable speaking the location out.

What are your views? Do you think this is going to be something revolutionary?

2 Comments

  • I’m going to have to disagree with you here, at least with my situation. I’ve always been using Android’s older voice commands (like “Navigate”) since I drive around a lot. Adding more voice commands really helps people like me out because now I don’t have to fiddle through my phone to call someone, instead I can just speak into my bluetooth to make that call. Also, that Note-to-self feature is amazing, I’ve already used it once and it’s saved me.

    I don’t know about the mass Android population, but this definitely helps me out in my daily life.

  • There’s already a quite a few find-my-phone apps in the market, ranging from texting you a message with the phone’s GPS coordinates upon an incoming text with keywords to playing loud noises to having a 3rd party hosting site show you a nice map. I think some can even keep your phone locked and some can wipe some data, just in case.

    There’s also Skype / Nimbuzz / Fring support for video calling. Also, the Samsung Galaxy S has a voice call button too, not sure what it’s using.

    Android’s had background services since day 1, and Google doesn’t restrict 3rd party apps arbitrarily.

    Also, most people don’t care about their own privacy – they just want the next coolest thing. Take a look at all the FB users posting everything under the sun, and even APL tracking their users whenever they use GPS/wifi location fix, even if it was a 3rd party app that requested it.

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