Google Search takes a cue from Siri and becomes more conversational.
In recent years, the Voice Command championship belt has been exchanged between two major players in the smartphone world.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) kicked things off in the early days of Android with the ability to search, email, and navigate to a specific destination by voice with a standard, yet limited, set of voice commands. But upon introducing the iPhone 4S, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stole the spotlight with Siri, a virtual assistant whose understanding of voice commands went beyond "Navigate to" and "Search for." Siri could ostensibly follow "fuzzy language" and retrieve, say, the weather forecast if a user asked "What's the weather like today?" or "Show me the weather, Siri." Unfortunately, buggy implementation and dodgy search results kept Siri only slightly ahead of Google's offerings. (See: Apple Co-Founder Hates Siri, Too)
However, Google has proudly worn the winner's belt since unveiling Google Now and the updated Google Search app. Fast, accurate, more informative, and able to understand a wealth commands -- as well as "predict" the information you need based on usage history -- the superb Google Now-Google Search one-two punch remains the very best in mobile voice command prowess.
But there's been one thing that Siri was able to do better than Google Search: conversation. Unlike Android devices that required all the information in a single vocal search or command, Siri could be given an action in several parts separated by the app's responses. So, an email command would go something like:
"What would you like the subject to be?"
"What would you like the email to say?"
"Can't wait to see you for the holidays."
"Would you like me to send the email?"
Not only does this type of interaction allow the user to collect his or her thoughts while speaking, it also means not losing the entire email and being forced to start over should one step fail.
This was one of the few advantages Siri held over Google Search. That is, until a recent update.
Amidst a bevy of new features and improvements, Google Search can now hold a conversation in a similar fashion to Siri, as reported by Ron Amadeo for Ars Technica. Android users can provide open-ended commands and be prompted for further information. Amadeo demonstrates the new step-by-step feature here:
Amadeo notes that there is still room for improvement, but it proves that Google is closer to a hands-free mobile utopia than any of the other major players.