Feeds

Yahoo! brings speech rec to mobile search

A swan song before death

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

CTIA Wireless Yahoo! has released a nifty BlackBerry app that lets you search the web with voice commands.

Today, at the CTIA wireless trade show in Las Vegas, the big-name web company unveiled version 2.0 of oneSearch, the mobile search service it launched in January 2007. Version 2 won't hit phones until sometime this summer, but Yahoo! is offering BlackBerry users a sneak peek at the service's new voice recognition engine.

With this "technology preview" - available for download at m.yahoo.com/voice - you can search for just about anything simply by pressing your phone push-to-talk button and, well, talking. And judging from several minutes of anecdotal testing, it works pretty well.

When we say "Elvis Presley," the app recognizes that we've mentioned The King and gives us King-related search results. And when we say "Sushi Las Vegas," it gives us a quick list of Sin City Japanese restaurants. Of course, there are also cases where it has no idea what we're saying - apparently, Yahoo!'s speech rec partner, vlingo, is unaware of Tom Stoppard - and Yahoo! banner ads turn up with each search. But the tool is generally impressive.

Search Monkey

Voice rec, however, is only part of the new oneSearch. Version 2.0 will include a mobile version of the Yahoo! Search Assist engine and tools based on a fledgling Yahoo! project known as "Search Monkey". Search Assist does predictive text and contextual recommendations, while "Search Monkey" attempts to unlock the so-called Semantic Web. Basically, it's a set of open source tools that allow web publishers and users to annotate search results with meta data.

"With oneSearch, you will get even better answers," Yahoo! Mobile President Marco Boerries said during his CTIA keynote. "We're opening up oneSearch to all the publishers and content owners in the world to value-add oneSearch with their content and drive traffic back to their sites."

Perhaps this was just a poor choice of words. But we can't help but think this could all go horribly wrong.

In some cases, better answers may indeed turn up. During his keynote demo, Boerries keyed-in the name of a car, and the engine used its "Open API" metadata to bring up relevant info from MotorTrend.

But, judging from the demo, Yahoo! has also given special preference to certain sites. Yelp and OpenTable links pop up on restaurant searches. Facebook and LinkedIn pages appear when you key in a person's name. And so on.

Yelp for Help

During the demo, these sorts of results were often at the top of the list. And being at the top of the list carries even more weight on mobile devices, where screens are small. When you ask for sushi restaurants in Las Vegas, should 124 Yelp reviews be one of the few things you see?

It seems like this could very easily become the personal playpen for a small collection of sites. And what happens when people start typing in product names? Will they end up buying from the sites best at playing the Yahoo! game?

When we asked Yahoo! senior vice president Steve Boom about this, he didn't think it was a problem. And then he made the problem even worse.

"Our product has to go broader. We need to be able to get a broader set content for search queries," he told us. "And when we roll this out, we're going to focus on non-commercial stuff and see how it goes. For one, we don't want to take away from our own monetization possibilities. But before we get into real obviously commercial type stuff, we're going to see how the non-commercial stuff works out in practice." ®

Bootnote

For all the news on the CTIA Wireless trade show see our CTIA roundup.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Brits: Google, can you scrape 60k pages from web, pleeease
Hey, c'mon Choc Factory, it's our 'right to be forgotten'
Of COURSE Stephen Elop's to blame for Nokia woes, says author
'Google did have some unique propositions for Nokia'
FCC, Google cast eye over millimetre wireless
The smaller the wave, the bigger 5G's chances of success
It's even GRIMMER up North after MEGA SKY BROADBAND OUTAGE
By 'eck! Eccles cake production thrown into jeopardy
Mobile coverage on trains really is pants
You thought it was just *insert your provider here*, but now we have numbers
Don't mess with Texas ('cos it's getting Google Fiber and you're not)
A bit late, but company says 1Gbps Austin network almost ready to compete with AT&T
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.