Google will put Majel on the line to rival Siri

Dec 18, 2011 by Nancy Owano weblog

( -- Majel is Google’s voice controlled assistant in the wings and it is poised to compete against Apple’s iPhone 4S-based Siri. The new chatter surrounding the yet to be launched Majel can be translated down to Watch out Siri: Android’s coming at you. While smartphone users generally agree that no smartphone voice assistant has yet to rival Siri--a technology with roots in a DARPA project with a history of research before Apple bought it in 2010 -- Siri is in for more serious competition.

Based on tips circulating this week, Android Voice Actions will be followed by a newcomer that will be further up in the voice recognition hierarchy and it's called Majel.

The site Android and Me has published a story that Majel will make its debut shortly. A better conversational experience will challenge that from . The key factor that has held Voice Actions back was a rigid verbal command syntax, say observers, whereas Siri ‘s AI capabilities have entertained as well as helped iPhone users.

According to reports, Majel will get natural language processing capabilities. End users will be able to speak to their phones Siri-like, using natural speech rather than having to think of ways to phrase their questions to make their phrase or sentence understood.

While Majel will be intelligent, it will not have Siri’s personality traits. Majel will not have much of any personality, say the tipsters. If Siri is a coy, sophisticated mate, Majel will be just a helpful voice assistant. Majel will make no effort to be “spunky” but will just “talk, listen and interpret,” says a report.

’s company purchases in 2010 and 2011 may have something to do with attempts to ensure Majel talks, listens and interprets extremely well. Smartphone users seeking useful information from a personal voice assistant are likely to find Majel up to the task.

The company acquired Phonetic Arts in 2010, a UK-based speech synthesis business. Google reportedly intends to use the technology to improve the sound of its automated voices. Also, Google recently acquired Clever Sense, the developer behind Alfred, a context-aware, curated recommendation engine. Alfred has proven its worth as a discovery engine that can make restaurant recommendations for users based on information gathered about the user’s tastes. Google also bought restaurant authorities Zagat in September, further bolstering its information trove.

Some say Majel could be released by the end of the month, while others assume an early 2012 launch to be more likely. What’s more, Android watchers point to Google’s June I/O event as a fitting time for the company not only to announce the next release of Android but also to announce that Majel is integrated into the platform too.

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4.6 / 5 (5) Dec 18, 2011
Majel Barret was the computer voice on the Star Trek franchise - from the original TV series to the movies and other TV spinoffs - and was the wife of Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek creator. What do you want to bet that the Google "Majel" voice sounds exactly like Majel Barret? That would be ultra-cool and the ultimate tribute to Gene Roddenberry and all that Star Trek has brought to society. Even though she died in 1998 she will live on - hopefully!
5 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2011
Wikipedia says she died on Dec 18/08
not rated yet Dec 18, 2011
When are they going to add voice to computers? Google, Wikipedia, Windows, all could use some form of voice command I know there was several applications previous but they all were horrible.
3 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2011
When are they going to add voice to computers? Google, Wikipedia, Windows, all could use some form of voice command I know there was several applications previous but they all were horrible.

It's pretty hard to program them to recognize every dialect even within the same language.

Also, it's going to hog your processor an memory, which makes it pointless unless you have some sort of disability, or unless you are doing something like dictating notes for a book or such.
not rated yet Dec 18, 2011
Newbeak - yes, I stand corrected. I had meant to put 2008 but I put 1998 instead. Must have something to do with Y2K... :^)
5 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2011
This is why I was so excited about Siri.

Apple had voice commands for their phones over a year ago, Google, etc shortly after that. But they all stunk. They were no more improved than what has been available on the computer for a decade or more.

Now that Apple had released a voice control system that was specifically advertised for its ability to understand *natural* language, controlling your device by voice is no longer simply a 'checkbox feature'.

Now, *how well* your device understands you is the selling point, not just *if* you can talk to it.

There is now going to be a huge amount of competition on how well the device understands you. Majel and Siri competing with each other (along with Microsoft and others' eventual offerings) will be the best thing for human-computer interface since the mouse.
5 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2011
It would be fun to put an iPhone and an Android together (with both front-facing cameras running face-to-face) and let Siri and Majel chat with each other, or duke it out. That would be a YouTube video I would watch!
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 18, 2011
Apple did it first. Google will do it better.
J_ Matthew
3 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2011
"Some say Majel could be released by the end of next month, while others assume an early 2012 launch to be more likely."

I could be wrong, but "the end of next month" is January 2012. Doesn't that qualify as "early 2012"?
not rated yet Dec 19, 2011
"Some say Majel could be released by the end of next month, while others assume an early 2012 launch to be more likely."

I could be wrong, but "the end of next month" is January 2012. Doesn't that qualify as "early 2012"?

An "early 2012 launch" could possibly be taken to mean as late as May 31st, 2012.

I'm not sure why you brought up what you did. It would be like saying, the letter will arrive by tomorrow or by the end of the week. Tomorrow is also "by the end of the week", yet I'm assuming the meaning is clear in this example?
1 / 5 (1) Dec 20, 2011
Majel WILL have advertisements on the voice input screen. Google's core business is advertisements, not search. Search is Google's vehicle for advertisements. This will bottleneck the voice command transaction on the device and fatten the bandwidth for voice processing. but then again Apple will have iAd's on the Siri screen eventually...

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