Google's answer to Siri: Majel

By on December 14, 2011, 5:00 PM

Since the release of Apple's voice-activated assistant, there have been countless "Siri-killers", "Siri-like apps" and "We already had Siri" headlines littering the web. However, Google's Android may finally provide a worthy analogue to Apple's attempt at understanding natural language. 

Codenamed Majel (may-jell), the new system will supplant Android's current system, Voice Actions, early in 2012. The new technology promises to interpret your everyday language instead of relying on Voice Actions' rigid verbal command syntax. 

In an interview regarding Ice Cream Sandwich, Google Android director, Matias Duarte noted, "Our approach is more like Star Trek, right, starship Enterprise; every piece of computing surface, everything is voice-aware." hinting at a future where voice activation is ubiquitous among devices.

If you happen to be a Star Trek nerd, the name choice is a curious one. As fellow trekkies may know, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry was the wife of Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry. She portrayed Nurse Chapel in the original series and Lwaxana Troi in later shows (namely TNG) but perhaps her most recognizable role was that of the Enterprise computer. Majel (the actor) did voice acting for the ship's computer throughout most of Star Trek's history, including the 2009 movie.

Few details are known, but it is safe to say Google has the means to make something amazing. Where Siri was based on DARPA research from decades passed, Majel could be based upon many years of voice data analysis from Google's 411 and Voice services. The company also acquired Phonetic Arts in 2010, a business which specialized in human-like voice synthesis. Together, these things lay the foundation for an impressive virtual assistant experience.

Much like Siri, the initial release of Majel is expected to be somewhat less sophisticated than the final product. The software will not feature natural language commands at first, although it should still provide answers to your questions by utilizing Google's own services. Controlling the actions of your phone and its applications by speaking in everyday language will be coming at a later date.




User Comments: 26

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Guest said:

And there's Google making a copy again. Playing catch-up again and again.

shamus087 said:

Google does everything better. Apple<Google. Android>iOS.

Guest said:

name one thing that isn't a copy since the invention of the wheel

Nima304 said:

Guest said:

name one thing that isn't a copy since the invention of the wheel

Pretty sure the wheel was a copy of the sun.

Guest said:

"And there's Google making a copy again. Playing catch-up again and again. "

EXCEPT that Android had Voice Activations for a couple of years before, and has much deeper voice integration across the platform than Apple can only dreams about. And it works very well.

Guest said:

Uhmm.. what about an aglet?

Guest said:

So, does that mean that they'll try to make Majel's "voice" sound like Majel Barrett-Roddenbarry's voice? Because that would be an excellent selling point, especially for Trekkies.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Guest said:

And there's Google making a copy again. Playing catch-up again and again.

They are indeed stealing one from Apple's playbook. Taking ideas from Star Trek .

This would be awesome if it did resembled Majel's voice.

Guest said:

Why Google, why? There is a decent, much better codded voice integration already, so why give it a name and push people upon it Apple style and make a bid deal of it?

I don't want to talk to any device ever in my life. People, animals even to self ok... Electronic? No fcn' way!

Guest said:

Except, they aren't copying. They're doing something much different, if you actually read the article.

Guest said:

lol, nicew one

CryVer CryVer said:

Guest said:

And there's Google making a copy again. Playing catch-up again and again.

You are aware that the copying are going both ways? Take the notifications menu in Android, Apple copied it in iOS5

Chazz said:

Everyone copies the other. Microsoft made a sneak peak demo of where they're going with their tell me service that would look like a siri commercial if you saw it now. They made this about a year before siri came out, I guess Microsoft will be copying Apple when they finally release it.

tehbanz tehbanz said:

Guest said:

Why Google, why? There is a decent, much better codded voice integration already, so why give it a name and push people upon it Apple style and make a bid deal of it?

I don't want to talk to any device ever in my life. People, animals even to self ok... Electronic? No fcn' way!

Yes there is already decent voice recognition, but most of that entitles two word commands"Call Dave" "Open Gmail". With Majel you will be able to talk in a more natural format, like Siri. I hate to use an example that Apple used but it works, "Remind me to call my wife when I leave work" then your phone sets up a geo-barrier around your workplace reminding you when you break it to call your wife. Even "Remind me to see the landlord on April 16th" will add something straight to your calendar, which I don't believe is currently possible with the android voice commands.

Yes, it feels like a cheap copy of Siri, but think of it this way. I talk with so many "non-techies" on a daily-basis because of my job. Many of them want an iphone 5 just for Siri which is limited to ONE device, now we can have "Siri" on 100's of devices!

In a way it's just a copy, in a way it's moving android as an OS further.

Ranger12 Ranger12 said:

Shall we expect a lawsuit from Apple? I would be highly disappointed if there wasn't.

9Nails, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Nice picture! I almost missed that Spock was caring an Android device!

bimboy56 said:

Guest said:

And there's Google making a copy again. Playing catch-up again and again.

I hope you know that this "SIRI" is just the culmination of the works behind Voice Portals - BUT with TOO MUCH marketing schemes that made it ''Apple's Invention'' making it look like they were the first to create such app.

Bottomline - Both Apple and Google are "Renting" the technology - with improvements.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

Guest said:

Why Google, why? There is a decent, much better codded voice integration already, so why give it a name and push people upon it Apple style and make a bid deal of it?

I don't want to talk to any device ever in my life. People, animals even to self ok... Electronic? No fcn' way!

Dude, chill. Seriously. They aren't going to "make" you use it. It's there for you to use if you want. Why are so many consumers ******?

matrix86 matrix86 said:

Hmm...didn't know that word was censored on techspot, lol. What I was trying to say, is why are so many consumers ID10TS? :P Lets see if that makes it through

Guest said:

Hate to say it... but even though Apple might pioneer an idea in their product... Google will most certainly do it better.

I have been using Android since the iPhone 3G. Bought my nexus one, and then a Samsung Galaxy S. It was for Siri that I switched back to the iPhone 4S. (Which by the way was the flagship, or the only reason apple could convince me to buy this phone.. the hardware isnt that phenomenal) I was sorely disappointed! The lack of options, user configurability, is staggering. I can't even block numbers on the handset without calling my service provider. I am stuck with one keyboard, one way of doing things; Apples way! I miss my android phone. As soon as I can afford another I'm switching back... and I was only able to get android 2.1 on my phone before! It's since gotten much better.

Google is better at tailoring their products to suit everyone, individually. The rate of development is staggering. They just simply do things better, IMO.

You can keep your iPhone.

Guest said:

I think the Apple vs Google arguments are kind of silly and go too far. But I will say this, Apple is the first to really make voice recognition much more practical and fun. I have an iPhone 4s and was expecting siri to just be a noveltly (more or less). However, I have found it to be nothing short of amazing. And its very accurate transcribing your voice into typing, for entering texts, facebook posts, emails, etc. This makes things a lot easier. Typing on any smart phone's small keyboard is always a bit of a challenge. I was suprised how good the voice recognition, and siri's ability to understand and reply is much better than I expected, TBH.

Now this article about Google having an "answer" to this - is anyone surprised? And why not, to have choice for consumers and competition is a very good thing.

Now the article says that Google's version will be "better" than siri; but not in its first version, which will be based on more rigid command syntax? And then maybe in a few years it will be at least as good as Siri (or better if Siri does not evolve at all)? And meantime does anyone think that Apple is not already evolving siri so that in another year or two, it will certainly have raised the bar again, perhaps more than once.

This is not the first time Apple has led the way with something new. It won't be the last. But Apple can't "own" the concept of voice recognition, any more than it can own the idea of a tablet PC. But as long as Apple makes really cool products that people love, they will be fine.

Guest said:

Surprised at how annoyed droid users are with iPhone. I see so many attacks on Apple posted on comment boards, from droid users. I don't understand why - if you have your droid and its superior in your view, then just enjoy it. Why the need to trash the iPhone?

People vote with their wallets, that is what counts. Apple iPhone is loved by a lot of people and its flying off the shelves. For a lot of people, Apple hits the mark. A lot of people like a safe, reliable, malware free smartphone. They don't care if it has the biggest screen or the most high-end processor possible with seamless integration of the apps. They don't care about customizing it, because in their view its already beautifully designed and integrated; and 500,000 apps is enough for them. They don't care that its a "closed system". To be honest I could care less about that.

I don't understand why so many droid users seem pissed off about that. You have your droid, be happy! Customize it and do whatever else you want to do with it. I like the iPhone but I don't feel a need to trash the droid or any other android based phone. Its almost like droid users can't accept the fact that a huge sector of the marketplace does not agree with them that the droid is the best. Apple is doing really well so they are doing something right, whether you appreciate it or not droid user. ;-)

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Guest said:

Hate to say it... but even though Apple might pioneer an idea in their product... Google will most certainly do it better.

I have been using Android since the iPhone 3G. Bought my nexus one, and then a Samsung Galaxy S. It was for Siri that I switched back to the iPhone 4S. (Which by the way was the flagship, or the only reason apple could convince me to buy this phone.. the hardware isnt that phenomenal) I was sorely disappointed! The lack of options, user configurability, is staggering. I can't even block numbers on the handset without calling my service provider. I am stuck with one keyboard, one way of doing things; Apples way! I miss my android phone. As soon as I can afford another I'm switching back... and I was only able to get android 2.1 on my phone before! It's since gotten much better.

Google is better at tailoring their products to suit everyone, individually. The rate of development is staggering. They just simply do things better, IMO.

You can keep your iPhone.

... I'm sorry but I have to ask, why did you buy an iPhone 4S without trying it out first?

Guest said:

android has had voice commands for years already this is simply putting a name to the prompts and perhaps cleaning up the commands and allowing for it to be more intuitive than before. something we used to call updates.

apple rarely comes up with anything terribly innovative, merely marketing a repackaged and polished version of things on the market or not previously combined.it isnt inferior or superior by its nature.

many people take upbrage at the amount of praise and undue hype lavished upon apple for this lack of work. and apple rarely credits those which inspire it.

Guest said:

Microsoft "copied" Apple's Lisa after seeing it at the TCF, and demonstrated the first windows the following year. I was there both years. MS got the jump on Apple, because Lisa was too expensive and tied to hardware.

Guest said:

It is SO funny to read the iSheep responses about Google stealing things from Apple. Apple did not come up with the idea... it was purchased then implemented into their product. Google, on the other hand, has the ability and the innovation to create their own product.

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