The search giant's speech technology group manager explains at SpeechTEK 2007 how speech technology and mobile applications will help his company 'organize all the world's information.'
Posted Aug 21, 2007
NEW YORK -- As the opening keynote speaker here today at SpeechTEK 2007, the sister conference to destinationCRM2007, Mike Cohen, Google's speech technology group manager, focused primarily on his company's speech-powered mobile program, GOOG411--how it was developed, tested, and altered. Citing Google's mission statement--"Organize all the world's information"--Cohen maintained that speech technology will make an impact in the mobile market, and companies should take steps to adapt to the change. Throughout his presentation, Cohen also underlined the importance of keeping an "obsessive focus on the end-user."
Cohen made it clear that there are nearly twice as many mobile phone users worldwide (2.76 billion) as there are PC users (1.56 billion). With those numbers in mind, he explained, developers must find a way to expand information-gathering technology to cell phones and PDA devices. When searching the Web on a mobile device, Cohen said, users want specific information fast, as opposed to the leisurely browsing of the Web they might prefer from a desktop PC. To tackle this challenge, he said, speech technology has an advantage over traditional means of data entry.
"Mobile-user needs are focused and time-sensitive," he stated. "They are also adjunct to other, primary activities, such as driving a car while looking up directions."
To tackle this problem, he said, Google developed its GOOG411 service, which was launched earlier this year. The program, which is currently free, allows users to call 1-800-GOOG-411, speak a series of commands regarding location and desired information, and retrieve an address, phone number, or map, courtesy of the company's Google Maps application. Much like phone directory assistance applications, GOOG411 can also connect the user to the business in question.
GOOG411, Cohen explained, took a four-part approach in its experimentation phase:
- focusing on end-user needs;
- advancing core technologies to meet those needs;
- using data-driven information to develop applications and services; and
- maintaining continuous experimentation.
In its testing stage, Google used both quantitative and qualitative methods to improve the program's user interface. As Cohen explained, "If we're only getting quantitiatve data, we don't even know if we're measuring the right stuff." The company, he said, experimented with top match and list data formats. In top match, Google Maps works with user input and returns a first item matching the user's inquiry, while allowing the user to ask for more listings. The list method, however, relays a long list of all possible matches found with Google Maps. In the experimentation phase, Cohen said, Google gave 9,424 people the list technology, and 1,600 people the top match method. In trials, top match was deemed more useful and effective.
While Cohen said the company is still analyzing data from the experiments, he noted that companies must continue to seek further improvements upon the metrics used to study customer satisfaction. Though he concluded his presentation by stressing the impact of spoken commands and text-to-speech technology, he stressed the need to solve future obstacles with a user-focused and data-driven optimization process.
SpeechTEK 2007, which runs through Thursday, marks the third event since Speech Technology magazine and its events were acquired by Information Today, Inc. (ITI), CRM magazine's parent company. (The first was SpeechTEK 2006 in August 2006 and the second was SpeechTEK West in February of this year.) SpeechTEK is being co-located this time around with CRM's annual destinationCRM2007 conference, which runs through Wednesday.
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