Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Voice Search

Via Slashdot: Google looks to be entering the realm of vocal search in which Google listens to your spoken query and returns the results. According to Google's patent, Patent #7,027,987:
A system provides search results from a voice search query. The system receives a voice search query from a user, derives one or more recognition hypotheses, each being associated with a weight, from the voice search query, and constructs a weighted boolean query using the recognition hypotheses. The system then provides the weighted boolean query to a search system and provides the results of the search system to a user.
This would prove infinitely useful for Google Mobile because it will make life easier (assuming it works) and has the potential to put a real dent in the number of text-related injuries.

Another potential use for voice search would be to make searching for audio easier. This isn't what the patent claims to be for, but it seems it would be easier to match audio wavelengths than to go through writing transcripts or tagging all the audio out there. Making audio searchable is sure to be on the horizon, especially with the increasing popularity of podcasts, and the ad revenue that such search might produce could be huge.

Such a search service would run into tricky copyright issues, similar to those faced by the Google Book Search project, because they would have to make copies of all the audio to make to make a searchable database. Since podcasts are generally given away for free online anyway, the problems may be minor.

Whether Google were able to make music searchable in this way would be a different story. If the technology developed to make this possible it would make lyric searching easier without having to write up the lyrics separately.

I wonder, however, what effects voice search would have on copyright law. I do not know the answers to these questions right now, but is posting the lyrics of a song online a fair use? I'm going to guess no, but if a song is online and a Google bot finds it, can match an audio search string I provide to the audio of the song, and tell me the name of the song I have stuck in my head after hearing it on the radio, it would appear to skip over some of the copyright hangups with Internet search. You could count on the RIAA suing Google, but it's one of those things that shows how potentially useful the Internet and search can be, forcing us to think about is the potential public benefit great enough to justify reigning back the reach of copyright.
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