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

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
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. It?s not that there?s a personality, it doesn?t have a name, it?s 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, he?s 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 isn?t 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.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 180
    LOL - Try having an original idea.
  • Reply 2 of 180
    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.
  • Reply 3 of 180
    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.
  • Reply 4 of 180
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 180
    Of course Google is coming out with an answer to Siri..
  • Reply 6 of 180
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 180
    Groan.....
  • Reply 8 of 180
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    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. It?s not that there?s a personality, it doesn?t have a name, it?s 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, he?s 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.
  • Reply 9 of 180
    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.
  • Reply 10 of 180
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    As with everything Apple does (or buys, or in any ways sees the importance of and makes simple/effective)... first it?s ?worthless? and then the same people who said that get to work copying it! (Or at least make some halfway attempt?since they think a bullet point is worth more than real usability!--while Apple?s version keeps on improving and staying ahead.)
  • Reply 11 of 180
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 180
    Trekkers everywhere just had a pulmonary embolism. Then again, if most of them already had Siri, that might blunt Google's effort.
  • Reply 13 of 180
    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."
  • Reply 14 of 180
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,595member
    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."




    \
  • Reply 15 of 180
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,595member
    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!
  • Reply 16 of 180
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Patranus View Post


    LOL - Try having an original idea.



    How is Siri original?
  • Reply 17 of 180
    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 it?s ?worthless? and then the same people who said that get to work copying it! (Or at least make some halfway attempt?since they think a bullet point is worth more than real usability!--while Apple?s 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.
  • Reply 18 of 180
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 180
    majjomajjo Posts: 574member
    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.



    So how is it any different than voice actions of today, since that can already perform Google search queries?



    A major advantage of Siri over voice actions is Siri's tight integration with the rest of the phone. I would've expected that that would be one of the first things Google would address if it wanted to bring voice actions up to the level of Siri.



    Google's priorities just doesn't make much sense to me sometimes.
  • Reply 20 of 180
    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.
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