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Google Patents Voice Search

Conversing with computers, long the preferred mode of interaction between man and machine in science fiction, just moved closer to reality. Google Inc. on Tuesday was granted a patent for a voice interface for search engines.

Then again, it might just be a pipedream. Google spokesperson Barry Schnitt issued this characteristically opaque comment on the company's plans: "Like many companies, we file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees may come up with. Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don't. Prospective product announcements should not be inferred from our patent applications."

Filed over five years ago, the document at least confirms Google's longstanding commitment to extending its technology beyond the desktop to mobile devices, something seen in the company's recent series of mobile-oriented moves, such as its launch of mobile phone search ads in Japan last week.

So assume it's true that "there exists a need for a voice interface that is effective for search engines," as Google states in the patent filing. It follows then that Google, having developed such an interface, might just bring it to market.

"You can expect there will be more mobile search products coming out," says Dan Miller, an analyst with Opus Research Inc. "Speech as a mode for doing searches is getting more reliable." Miller suggests that Web search advertisers are salivating over the prospect of reaching hundreds of millions of prospective phone users.

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