Google’s response to Apple’s Siri voice assistant several months ago and over the last couple weeks I received further details about the secret project. For starters it is codenamed Majel, which comes from Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, better known as the voice of the Federation Computer from Star Trek.
Majel is an evolution of Google’s Voice Actions that is currently available on most Android phones with the addition of natural language processing. Where Voice Actions required you to issue specific commands like “send text to…” or “navigate to…”, Majel will allow you to perform actions in your natural language similar to how Siri functions.
Speaking of actions, it sounds like only Google search queries will be included with the initial release, that could come as soon as this year. I say this year because I’ve heard that engineers at Google X are working around the clock on finishing the first release and the NYTimes previously reported that one product would be released by Google X this year.
December if nearly half over, so a January or February release might be more realistic. Other more advanced features like controlling phone actions and applications with natural language commands are expected to come later.
Google’s Matias Duarte had previously given hints about the future of Android’s voice actions in an interview with Slashgear. Matias said, “Our approach is more like Star Trek, right, starship Enterprise; every piece of computing surface, everything is voice-aware. It’s not that there’s a personality, it doesn’t have a name, it’s just Computer.”
I had previously speculated that Google’s approach might actually include some kind of animated avatar, but it appears I was way off on that one. However, we still expect greatly enhanced computer voices that sound more human and fluid, thanks to Google’s acquisition of Phonetic Arts, which occurred at the tail end of 2010.