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Rumor: Google prepping 'Majel' Android voice assistant to counter Apple's Siri

post #1 of 177
Thread Starter 
A new unverified report claims Google is working on its own voice recognition assistant for Android, drawing its "Majel" codename from the voice of the on-board computer in Star Trek.

Android and Me claims to have received details on the project, which is codenamed "Majel" after the late Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, the actress who voiced the Federation Computer from Star Trek. Barrett-Roddenberry was also the wife of the show's creator Gene Roddenberry and played numerous roles throughout the franchise's history.

The voice assistant will be an "evolution" of Google's current Voice Actions feature in Android, adding natural language processing similar to Apple's Siri.

However, the initial release of Majel will reportedly only perform Google search queries. Report author Taylor Wimberly said engineers at the company's secretive Google X lab are working "around the clock" to prepare the product for release. More advanced features such as controlling phone actions and applications would arrive later, according to the report.

Matias Duarte, Google's Director of Android User Experiences, may have hinted at the Star Trek codename last month when he compared the company's approach to the science-fiction franchise.

"Our approach is more like Star Trek, right, starship Enterprise; every piece of computing surface, everything is voice-aware. Its not that theres a personality, it doesnt have a name, its just 'Computer,' he said.

Duarte went so far as to invoke the classic Star Trek versus Star Wars rivalry by comparing Siri to the bumbling C-3PO droid from George Lucas' series.

"You have these robot personalities like C-3PO who runs around and he tries to do stuff for you, messes up and makes jokes, hes kind of a comic relief guy," he said of iOS.

Apple unveiled Siri in October as a flagship feature of the new iPhone 4S handset. The service has numerous embedded easter eggs, including references to Space Odyssey 2001. The Siri team reportedly worked to give the virtual personal assistant a friendly and humble personality with a slight edge.

The Majel project appears to run counter to recent comments from Android boss Andy Rubin that users "shouldn't be communicating with the phone." He said in October that he doesn't believe "your phone should be an assistant."

He did, however, point out that some of Android's original founders had backgrounds in speech recognition. This isnt a new notion, Rubin said. In projecting the future, I think Apple did a good job of figuring out when the technology was ready to be consumer-grade.



Siri's arrival has already prompted several clones in the Android Market, but the clones have limited functionality. Some industry watchers believe Apple jumped years ahead of its competition through its purchase of Siri last year.

Apple is not content to rest on Siri's current laurels, especially since the service is still in beta. Earlier this month, the company posted several job listings for engineers to help evolve the Application Programming Interface, port the feature to other languages and build out new features. According to an October report from The Wall Street Journal, the Siri development team at Apple is one of the largest groups at the company.

Microsoft has joined Google in denouncing Siri while simultaneously touting its own voice action features. After first dismissing Siri as not being "super useful," the software giant then began claiming that it had already possessed Siri-like functionality in Windows Phone for some time now.

"The Tellme facility's been in the Windows 7 phone for more than a year," Chief Research and Strategy Officer Mundie said. "So I mean I just think people are infatuated with Apple announcing [Siri]."

However, a side-by-side comparison of Siri and Tellme showed that Microsoft's implementation struggled to understand even basic commands.

post #2 of 177
LOL - Try having an original idea.
post #3 of 177
Quote:
Andy Rubin that users "shouldn't be communicating with the phone." He said in October that he doesn't believe "your phone should be an assistant."

Right, they should be communicating with Google, having everything they say turned into a targeted ad.

Your phone shouldn't be an assistant, it should be a microphone for voice commands that happens to have a screen that serves up ads.

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post #4 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patranus View Post

LOL - Try having an original idea.

Except... if it ended up SPEAKING in the voice of the Star Trek computer, that would earn some serious brownie points.
post #5 of 177
It might be useful to note in the original article that "Majel" is a reference to Majel Roddenberry, the late wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. She played Nurse Chapel in the original series, Number One in the Star Trek pilot, and the Enterprise computer in every Star Trek series and movie since Star Trek: The Next Generation. I imagine many people already know this, but it's sloppy journalism not to note it.
post #6 of 177
Of course Google is coming out with an answer to Siri..
post #7 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by tikiman View Post

Except... if it ended up SPEAKING in the voice of the Star Trek computer, that would earn some serious brownie points.

Yeah. It would earn points with the Star Trek nerds who are probably all Android users.

I mean, come on. You know there are dudes in the 24th century who would refuse a job on The Enterprise because the Federation Computer can't be rooted.
post #8 of 177
Groan.....
post #9 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

However, the initial release of Majel will reportedly only perform Google search queries. Report author Taylor Wimberly said engineers at the company's secretive Google X lab are working "around the clock" to prepare the product for release. More advanced features such as controlling phone actions and applications would arrive later, according to the report.

Oh, great. So it isn't ready yet, and when it is ready, it will be Google-only and won't do any of the things that Siri does except search via Google. Why not simply say "we're not competent to make a clone of Siri, so we'll just put a voice front end on Google and hope Android purchasers are too stupid to know the difference"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Matias Duarte, Google's Director of Android User Experiences, may have hinted at the Star Trek codename last month when he compared the company's approach to the science-fiction franchise.

"Our approach is more like Star Trek, right, starship Enterprise; every piece of computing surface, everything is voice-aware. Its not that theres a personality, it doesnt have a name, its just 'Computer,' he said.

Duarte went so far as to invoke the classic Star Trek versus Star Wars rivalry by comparing Siri to the bumbling C-3PO droid from George Lucas' series.

"You have these robot personalities like C-3PO who runs around and he tries to do stuff for you, messes up and makes jokes, hes kind of a comic relief guy," he said of iOS.

Really? If that's true, what is Googles not-yet-existing cheapo Siri clone? Robby the Robot?

Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apple unveiled Siri in October as a flagship feature of the new iPhone 4S handset. The service has numerous embedded easter eggs, including references to Space Odyssey 2001. The Siri team reportedly worked to give the virtual personal assistant a friendly and humble personality with a slight edge.

The Majel project appears to run counter to recent comments from Android boss Andy Rubin that users "shouldn't be communicating with the phone." He said in October that he doesn't believe "your phone should be an assistant."

It was obvious to the entire world that he didn't mean that and that Google would attempt to follow. He had to say SOMETHING, though.
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post #10 of 177
All that mind-share at Google and they can't do anything but copy Apple and search. If i was a Google employee I would be embarrassed.
post #11 of 177
As with everything Apple does (or buys, or in any ways sees the importance of and makes simple/effective)... first its worthless and then the same people who said that get to work copying it! (Or at least make some halfway attemptsince they think a bullet point is worth more than real usability!--while Apples version keeps on improving and staying ahead.)
post #12 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by kozchris View Post

All that mind-share at Google and they can't do anything but copy Apple and search. If i was a Google employee I would be embarrassed.

It is terribly me-too. Google used to innovate.
post #13 of 177
Trekkers everywhere just had a pulmonary embolism. Then again, if most of them already had Siri, that might blunt Google's effort.

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post #14 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

It was obvious to the entire world that he didn't mean that and that Google would attempt to follow. He had to say SOMETHING, though.

He could have said, "$500! For a phone! Fully Subsidized! That's the most expensive phone in the world and it doesn't appeal to business customers because it doesn't have a keyboard, which makes it not a very good email machine."
post #15 of 177
Google must be facing a dilemma in working advertising into spoken responses.

"Majel, will I need my umbrella today?"

"I do not understand 'dumb fella'?"

"No, my umbrella, will I need my umbrella today?"

"Acme umbrellas is one block north of your current location. They make an excellent range of affordable umbrellas. Rain is not forecast for your location today."


\
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post #16 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by chabig View Post

He could have said, "$500! For a phone! Fully Subsidized! That's the most expensive phone in the world and it doesn't appeal to business customers because it doesn't have a keyboard, which makes it not a very good email machine."

That would be a blatant rip-off... and no one at Google would countenance that!
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post #17 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patranus View Post

LOL - Try having an original idea.

How is Siri original?
post #18 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevenfeet View Post

It might be useful to note in the original article that "Majel" is a reference to Majel Roddenberry, the late wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. She played Nurse Chapel in the original series, Number One in the Star Trek pilot, and the Enterprise computer in every Star Trek series and movie since Star Trek: The Next Generation. I imagine many people already know this, but it's sloppy journalism not to note it.

Seconded, but IIRC, she also did computer voices in the original series. Granted, it was a hokey 60s version of a computer voice, so it sounded quite different, but I'm pretty sure she played Starfleet computers on every series except Enterprise.

God knows there must be a lot of recordings of her computer voice-over work in some Paramount vault somewhere. Perhaps enough to synthesize a voice from...?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sticknick View Post

Yeah. It would earn points with the Star Trek nerds who are probably all Android users.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sticknick View Post

[implying fans of Star Trek are "probably" inherently too unenlightened to appreciate iOS]



Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

As with everything Apple does (or buys, or in any ways sees the importance of and makes simple/effective)... first its worthless and then the same people who said that get to work copying it! (Or at least make some halfway attemptsince they think a bullet point is worth more than real usability!--while Apples version keeps on improving and staying ahead.)

I vaguely remember Steve Jobs flippantly dismissing products or features, such as video playback on iPods, while Apple worked furiously to get said products or features ready to ship. It's not just Apple's competitors.
post #19 of 177
YES bash the non officially announced feature in android. Bash a rumor.

Depending on how it is added it could really just be the evolution of the current voice control. If you ask me an honest opinion I will tell you Siri at this point is just a gimmick in a new dress. I think in a few months people will not care to much about it. But this is just my opinion to features that do not add any real functionality to people.
post #20 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevenfeet View Post

I imagine many people already know this, but it's sloppy journalism not to note it.

There are no journalists at AppleInsider.
post #21 of 177
Droid - Star Wars
Majel - Star Trek

Now if they can only work-in a feature named "Gandalf" they will have accomplished the fantasy-nerd trifecta.
post #22 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patranus View Post

LOL - Try having an original idea.

HAHAHA. Apple purchased the company that created Siri. Siri isn't even Apple's idea to being with. Try having some knowledge about the subject before posting. And speech recognition is a VERY old idea. Yes there have been some advancements, but Apple has nothing to do with them.
post #23 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Snitch View Post

It is terribly me-too. Google used to innovate.

Shhh... let's never speak of that ever again.

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post #24 of 177
I think the whole "think up an original idea" line is meant to be "Hey Google, why don't YOU come out with the brand new, killer feature that everyone talks about, first? It just seems like you scoffed sarcastically when Siri dropped, and now that it's a household name you're scrambling to clone it." Apple didn't invent Siri, they bought it, but they did a damn fine job integrating it with their existing structure.
post #25 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple v. Samsung View Post

YES bash the non officially announced feature in android. Bash a rumor.

That's what we do on these forums, every day.

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post #26 of 177
A) this is a rumor

B) this is just an evolution of voice actions, something which already exists on Android and has for a while

C) Apple didn't invent Siri

D) Apple has no monopoly on voice action, voice control, etc etc etc.
post #27 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Santoanderson View Post

Droid - Star Wars
Majel - Star Trek

Now if they can only work-in a feature named "Gandalf" they will have accomplished the fantasy-nerd trifecta.

That's actually funny.
post #28 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by openminded View Post

HAHAHA. Apple purchased the company that created Siri. Siri isn't even Apple's idea to being with. Try having some knowledge about the subject before posting. And speech recognition is a VERY old idea. Yes there have been some advancements, but Apple has nothing to do with them.

If this was so obvious and so simple, why hasn't everyone else done it?
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post #29 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patranus View Post

LOL - Try having an original idea.

They don't have to. The usual suspectz will say Google started working on natural language processing years before Siri, therefore, Apple copied Google's original idea. And by the way, all those sci-fi movies featuring machines that can understand natural language? Also copied from Google.

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post #30 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Santoanderson View Post

I think the whole "think up an original idea" line is meant to be "Hey Google, why don't YOU come out with the brand new, killer feature that everyone talks about, first? It just seems like you scoffed sarcastically when Siri dropped, and now that it's a household name you're scrambling to clone it." Apple didn't invent Siri, they bought it, but they did a damn fine job integrating it with their existing structure.

Well said
post #31 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by IQatEdo View Post

If this was so obvious and so simple, why hasn't everyone else done it?

Well hey...Apple had to buy it...

remember that.

You going to credit Apple with 3D maps when that comes out too?

You going to credit Google with inventing Android?

You do not get the right to claim ownership of an idea you bought and tweaked.

Since a lot of you like to slam Google for having bought Android the same thing goes in all directions.

I don't want to call a lot of you hypocrites or anything.
post #32 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple v. Samsung View Post

If you ask me an honest opinion I will tell you Siri at this point is just a gimmick in a new dress. I think in a few months people will not care to much about it. But this is just my opinion to features that do not add any real functionality to people.

And if you ask me, Siri has been an incredibly fun AND useful tool in my phone. I am amazed at how useful 'she' is especially considering how limited her integration in the OS has been. Not only is it fun to use the personal assistant aspect of the phone, it's actually quite helpful that I can save a number of steps using Siri vs. doing it all manually through the touch interface. Apple has launched a beta that is better than anything else out there, and is only going to get better with each subsequent release and over time.

If you ask me, Siri is a tremendous boon to Apple and their customers, and something the rest of the phone/OS makers should be frankly afraid of. They've blindsided the rest of the mobile world. And you'd be wise to bet that this isn't the last time, either.
post #33 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Santoanderson View Post

I think the whole "think up an original idea" line is meant to be "Hey Google, why don't YOU come out with the brand new, killer feature that everyone talks about, first? It just seems like you scoffed sarcastically when Siri dropped, and now that it's a household name you're scrambling to clone it." Apple didn't invent Siri, they bought it, but they did a damn fine job integrating it with their existing structure.

That's an interesting perspective; Android has had voice recognition for well over over a year. Yes, Siri is an improvement over what Android offers. And no doubt Google will respond by improving Android.

Let's not try to pretend that Apple introduced voice recognition. In the smartphone realm they're a late player to the game.
post #34 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patranus View Post

LOL - Try having an original idea.

Google Voice Actions came out in Froyo, in August 2010. Apple added Siri in August 2011, buying a voice recognition app from a smaller developer in order to quickly catch up. Android's voice recognition feature was a full year earlier. All this article is about is Google renaming GVA to something more catchy in order to better compete with Apple's marketing machine. Apple certainly didn't invent the idea, and they weren't first to introduce it in a smartphone OS either.
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post #35 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by macwise View Post

And if you ask me, Siri has been an incredibly fun AND useful tool in my phone. I am amazed at how useful 'she' is especially considering how limited her integration in the OS has been. Not only is it fun to use the personal assistant aspect of the phone, it's actually quite helpful that I can save a number of steps using Siri vs. doing it all manually through the touch interface. Apple has launched a beta that is better than anything else out there, and is only going to get better with each subsequent release and over time.

If you ask me, Siri is a tremendous boon to Apple and their customers, and something the rest of the phone/OS makers should be frankly afraid of. They've blindsided the rest of the mobile world. And you'd be wise to bet that this isn't the last time, either.

Surprised? Apple blindsided the industry with the iphone, ipad, and the Macbook Air. Apple creates a demand and then all the "me too" companies come running in, trying to capitalise on Apple's success. Siri is just the latest iteration. It's a phenominal success, so of course Microsoft and Google want to emulate it. But Google using Majel Barrett's name is an insult! Mrs Barrett Roddenberry never had to be rebooted or crashed in the middle of a sentence! Imagine if the Enterprise had been using Android. Never would have made it out of space dock.
post #36 of 177
Oh yeah, Droid has had voice recognition, but it doesn't hold a candle to Siri. I'm thinking of half a dozen Youtube videos wherein the author gives verbal commands to a new iPhone 4s and a new Droid handset sitting side by side on a coffee table. The author asks them both to find a Pizza shop near San Francisco. Siri pops up with a map of Pizza Huts, Dominos, Little Caesars, etc, and the Droid starts playing some Bowie song whose title apparently sounds like "San Francisco Pizza Shop".
post #37 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by igxqrrl View Post

That's an interesting perspective...

Let's not try to pretend that Apple introduced voice recognition. In the smartphone realm they're a late player to the game.

You seem quite sure about that. So, please tell, just how long Apple has employed some measure of voice recognition on iPhones?
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post #38 of 177
I know my 3gs had voice recognition, and that was 2 and a half years ago. Granted the extent of what it can do is repeat and play song titles I tell it to play. But still, it's recognizing my voice.
post #39 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by openminded View Post

HAHAHA. Apple purchased the company that created Siri.

Google purchased the company that created Android.
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post #40 of 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Santoanderson View Post

I know my 3gs had voice recognition, and that was 2 and a half years ago. Granted the extent of what it can do is repeat and play song titles I tell it to play. But still, it's recognizing my voice.

Exactly... and it was of most use to me in making hands-free calls.
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