Yesterday saw the launch of the absolutely awesome Google Voice Search in South Africa. What the service allows you to do is perform Google searches simply by speaking into your cellphones.
“You speak into your phone and it sends your voice over the network where it’s analysed and you get your search results,” is what Google senior staff engineer Johan Schalkwyk told News24 on the sidelines of the G-South Africa conference in Cape Town. He went on to say- “We’d like to encompass both, but speech is natural – it’s a more natural modality and I find it useful.”
This is a fairly major move by the online giant as mobile and mobile internet is currently the biggest market across the African continent. Google said that the Voice Search service represented the company’s continued push into Africa, and that monetisation was not the first consideration (yeah of course not). It really does open up a world of possibility for those people who aren’t savvy enough to write on keyboards but know how to speak (one would hope).
According to Nelson Mattos, Google’s vice president of engineering by increasing internet users by 1%, you increase exports by 4.3%. The main challenge locally will be to get the 90% of South Africans who are not currently online or tech savvy on the internet and onto MyCityByNight (ok maybe that’s not everyone’s main concern) and I think that this is going to go a very long way to completing this goal.
Google Voice currently works on smart phones only and Google is betting that the Android market will soon overtake competitors Apple and BlackBerry to become the industry standard as far as applications and internet access on cell phones.
“Mobile search has increased by 170% (in SA) and 200 000 Android devices are activated per day (worldwide). Mobile is already here and it’s already big,” said Google’s product manager, Robert Hamilton. Best you recognize.
Voice Search is available in South African English, Afrikaans and Zulu, and there are plans to roll it out in all 11 South African official languages.