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Speech Input, GPS Make Mobile Search Smarter

Posted on | June 14, 2010 | Comments Off on Speech Input, GPS Make Mobile Search Smarter

Speech Input, GPS Make Mobile Search Smarter

WHEN YOU’RE sitting at a computer, a good search engine puts the entire Internet at your fingertips— but that probably isn’t what you want when you are searching from a cell phone. Skimming pages of Google results on a tiny screen with sluggish connectivity can be frustrating, and typing keywords on a small (or soft- ware) keyboard is not fun. New mobile search services and apps let you speak, rather than type, search terms and filter results based on proximity (on the assumption that you’re likely searching for something nearby). Microsoft’s TellMe, Yahoo’s OneSearch, and offerings by smaller companies such as ChaCha may not be perfect, but they do try to tailor their searches to meet the needs of mobile users. Apps that accept speech input and return Web results are the latest development. New versions of TellMe and OneSearch (at launch, available as downloads for new GPS-enabled BlackBerry devices) let you search by holding down the green Talk button and speaking keywords into the handset. The digitized audio converts into text fed to searches using the handset’s location data.

Some Dim Sum? Results on OneSearch look and act more or less like traditional links, organized by category. When I spoke the words “dim sum,” the first results OneSearch returned (under the heading Businesses) were Chinese restaurants and a link to retrieve more of the same. The restaurant listings included links to maps, reviews, and a call dialer; conventional search results—one an entry from Wikipedia—came next. The new version of TellMe hadn’t appeared at this writing (it should be available by the time you read this), but in a demo it, too, presented a list of businesses. Clicking any entry produced a screen bearing the company’s address and phone number at the top, with icons for relevant info or tasks such as initiating a phone call, displaying a map, or making a purchase. If you don’t want your GPS data to guide the search, you can tell your preferred location to TellMe. It does not provide general search results, however. An earlier TellMe version accepts voice input for directory assistance; it’s available on Sprint and Helio GPS phones. To try out the lookup service, call 800/555-8355 or text search keywords to 83556.