Introducing Voice Search for Indonesian, Malaysian and Latin American Spanish

We are excited to announce the launch of Voice Search in Indonesian, Malaysian, and Latin American Spanish, making Voice Search available in over two dozen languages and accents since our first launch in November 2008. This accomplishment could not have been possible without the help of local users in the region – really, we couldn’t have done it without them. Let me explain:

In 2010 we launched Voice Search in Dutch, the first language where we used the “word of mouth” project, a crowd-sourcing effort to collect the most accurate voice data possible.The traditional method of acquiring voice samples is to license the data from companies who specialize in the distribution of speech and text databases. However, from day one we knew that to build the most accurate Voice Search acoustic models possible, the best data would come from the people who would use Voice Search once it launched – our users.

Since then, in each country, we found small groups of people who were avid fans of Google products and were part of a large social network, either in local communities or on online. We gave them phones and asked them to get voice samples from their friends and family. Everyone was required to sign a consent form and all voice samples were anonymized. When possible, they also helped to test early versions of Voice Search as the product got closer to launch.

Building a speech recognizer is not just limited to localizing the user interface. We require thousands of hours of raw data to capture regional accents and idiomatic speech in all sorts of recording environments to mimic daily life use cases. For instance, when developing Voice Search for Latin American Spanish, we paid particular attention to Mexican and Argentinean Spanish. These two accents are more different from one another than any other pair of widely-used accents in all of South and Central America. Samples collected in these countries were very important bookends for building a version of Voice Search that would work across the whole of Latin America. We also chose key countries such as Peru, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia to bridge the divergent accent varieties.

As an International Program Manager at Google, I have been fortunate enough to travel around the world and meet many of our local Google users. They often have great suggestions for the products that they love, and word of mouth was created with the vision that our users could participate in developing the product. These Voice Search launches would not have been possible without the help of our users, and we’re excited to be able to work together on the product development with the people who will ultimately use our products.

Imagery Update – Week of December 12th

‘Tis the season of giving! For those of you who’d like nothing more than to receive the gift of new places to explore on Google Earth and Maps, you’re in luck. Our imagery team’s latest update includes many places that relate metaphorically to the holiday season.
For example, it’s often at the end of the year that we remark “Out with the old, and in with the new.” That concept can also be applied to the below image that captures two military installations located North West of Beijing. You can see the fascinating juxtaposition of the modern Yongning Air Force base (bottom right) and an adjacent section of the ancient Great Wall of China (upper left quadrant) that outlines parts of the Shibapan Ling mountain range. And yes, you really can see the wall from space!
Near Beijing, China
Wouldn’t gold make a great stocking stuffer? Take a look at the below image of Jin Xixin Lake, the dammed section of the Minjiang River also known as the Gold Lake, located south of Mount Wuyi, China. In this image, you can see lots of prime locations that might make great prospecting camps. Get out your pans!
Gold (but no frankincense) near Mount Wuyi, China
Finally, although this time of year is often associated with the Christian-based holidays, when thinking about China, thoughts naturally turn to Buddhism. Just the other day on the Google campus in Mountain View, a group of Tibetan monks visited to build a Sand Mandala and lead a meditation group. In this spirit, I’ve included the below image of the first Buddhist monastery built in Tibet, the Samye Monastery.
A site of enlightenment in Tibet
The examples above only hint at the type and breadth of features that can be seen and discovered in our latest batch of published imagery. Happy exploring and happy holidays!
High resolution aerial updates:
USA: Birmingham AL, Little Rock AK, Peoria IL, Tuscaloosa AL, Worcester MA, Jerome ID, Stevenson WA, Knoxville TN, Morganton NC, and Statesville NC
Canada: Powell River, and Sunshine Coast, BC., Canmore, and Cold Lake
Netherlands: Hilversum
South Africa: Northern, Eastern, and Western Cape, and Limpopo
Sweden: Gävleborgs Län, Jönköpings Län, Uppsala Län, Västerbottens Län, and Västra Götalands Län
Countries receiving high resolution satellite updates:
Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Virgin Islands, West Bank, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
These updates are currently only available in Google Earth, but they’ll also be in Google Maps soon. To get a complete picture of where we updated imagery, download this KML for viewing in Google Earth.

Nicaragua ‘Opportunistically’ Blamed Google Maps for Border Incursion

Ogle Earth has done some digging into the history of the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border — disputes over which date back to the 1850s — and comes to the following conclusion:

Given all this information, we can conclude that the narrative currently dominating the internet is wrong: Nicaragua did not mistakenly enter Costa Rican territory because it relied on Google Maps. [Nicaraguan president Daniel] Ortega’s justification for Nicaragua’s actions appeal to documents from the 19th century; [Edén] Pastora’s mention of Google Maps is just a taunt.

This has to do with recent dredging of the Rio San Juan, not Google’s map data. And Stefan also notes that Bing’s map data in the area isn’t all that precise either. Worth reading in full.

Previously: Nicaraguan Incursion into Costa Rican Territory Blamed on Google Maps Error.

Nicaragua ‘Opportunistically’ Blamed Google Maps for Border Incursion first appeared on The Map Room: A Weblog About Maps on November 7, 2010. Copyright