Friday, July 4, 2008

BlackBerry Pearl users can test voice input for Google Maps

As Google expands its product line for mobile services, the Mountain View-based company announced BlackBerry Pearl users now have the ability to use voice search.

Specifically, users will be able to use Google Maps, getting directions or locations by voice instead of text searching.

Pearl owners can go to, press 0 to center the view of the map, press a side key and say a business name or location, and then release the button so the voice recognition software can begin to pull in results.

Google designed the software for use when typing is not possible, a user isn't sure of the exact spelling of a name, or the name is too long.

For now, the service is available only for the BlackBerry Pearl -- models 8110, 8210, and 8120 -- but could be expanded to other BlackBerry devices, including the Curve. It's currently described as "experimental," which means the results will not always be flawless.

"Like many of Google's experimental features, we released this on a subset of phones in order to learn more about usage patterns and optimize the technology," a Google spokesperson told BetaNews Thursday. "We chose the Blackberry Pearl as it does not have a full QWERTY keyboard, making voice an even more appealing feature for users. We are always looking for ways to expand our offerings to more devices and to more users, but have nothing to announce at this time."

Several new phones have Google Maps integrated, though similar direction services are available from mobile phone providers. AT&T and Verizon Wireless both have GPS-based services available for a few dollars per month, but voice with Google Maps is free.

Nielsen research indicates mobile phone owners use Google Mobile for 9 searches per month on average, and Yahoo for 6.7, but mobile answers service ChaCha receives more than 40 searches per month. Utilizing a voice-in, text-out platform, ChaCha users are able to search for something by voice and get a response via text.

Google already uses speech recognition with its free Goog 411 service.

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