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.