(AFP) – Nov 19, 2008
LONDON (AFP) — A new voice-recognition search tool for the iPhone has problems understanding British accents, leading to some bizarre answers to spoken queries, a newspaper report and users said Wednesday.
The free application, which allows iPhone owners to use the Google search engine with their voice, mistook the word "iPhone" variously for "sex," "Einstein" and "kitchen sink," said the Daily Telegraph.
Comments left by users on the application's website seemed to confirm the problem. "Awesome job google. only problem is every time I say the word 'fish' it registers as 'sex'," wrote one, identified as Kevin.
A video demonstration of the Google Mobile App on the online giant's website shows an American engineer successfully asking for pictures of the Golden Gate as well as cinema timetables and temperature conversions.
The website also includes a link to a video showing people with Irish, British and Chinese accents asking for relatively complicated searches, with apparent success.
But British iPhone owners had less luck when speaking the word "iPhone" into the application -- a Scottish user was offered a porn website after it mistook his search for "sex," the Telegraph reported.
A user from Surrey, south of London, had his request mistaken for "myspace" and "Einstein" was another option offered for "iPhone" spoken with a Kent accent, it said.
The only British accent which correctly understood the request was for a user from Yorkshire, northern England, although he was also offered "bonfire."
A Welsh accent gave the suggestions "gorillas" and "kitchen sink."
"I've got a traditional Kentish accent and the thing kept on spitting back ridiculous things," said Roger Ellinson, 26, from Maidstone in Kent, southeastern England.
"I asked it to find my nearest pizza take away and it came back with something about volcanoes," he added.
"I asked it to find my nearest pub and it gave me a link to some kind of weird dating website," said Ellinson. "I'll have to try to put on my best American accent to get it to work."
On its website, Google points out that the new voice search system "is currently available only in U.S. English."
One British user, Edward Parsons, says on the site's comments board: "This is fantastic, except for the North American accent bias.
"It actually works pretty well, but I have to disguise my (North London) accent with a terrible folksy Texan tourist voice to get results. I can see this is going to be the source of much amusement and confusion."
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