Android Central

There's no denying that iOS's Siri has been a huge success for Apple, usability issues aside.  And it's no real secret that Google's been working on its own voice assistant tech at its top-secret Google X Lab for some time. So today's report that Google is reportedly speeding up work on its own interactive assistant will make for interesting, if unsurprising reading.

Near the end of a The Wall Street Journal article examining the state of the smartphone ecosystem is the news that Google is "accelerating plans to launch its own Siri competitor" for Android devices. The WSJ reports that, naturally, Google's assistant would work on Android devices, citing "people familiar with the matter."

While major mobile platforms borrowing each others' features is to be expected (hey there, S Voice), rumors surrounding Google's "Assistant" project have hinted at more than a mere aping of Siri's functionality. Google's ultimate goal, it's been reported, is more akin to the Star Trek computer than an app for looking up weather forecasts and setting reminders.

As with all developing Google technologies, there's a chance we may see something of Google's Assistant tech at Google IO next week, however we think this one's probably going to be a slower burn, even if the pace of development has quickened. Perhaps something for Android 5.0 or beyond?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Source: The Wall Street Journal


Reader comments

Google 'accelerating' development of its own voice assistant, WSJ reports


This is going to be great, I hope they were able to secure Majel's voice for the voice over. I read that they still have tons of Majel's voice recordings from STTNG.

Having the late Majel Barrett Roddenberry's voice as the Google Assistant would be just absolutely fabulous!

Google could take each word & piece them together to make a complete library of responses.

I would just have to dump my Siri on my iPhone 4S to have her on my HTC Vivid!
I alternate phones depending on my moods & if Siri is being a 1st class PITA!

Seeing this "assistant" release with Android 4.1 at I|O would be great. I hope Google doesn't screw it up, they don't have the best track record as of late.

This is the main problem with Google. Nothing they do has to be great, all it has to be is good enough. Look at the rate Android is being purchased around the world. Many many many problems with Android and it's software, yet people buy it anyway. Just look at how long we have not been able to delete apps or delete devices or find a list with just our purchased apps. These are major problems that could be fixed quite easily, yet they have not been addressed at all in the entire lifespan of Android. Why this is, is because Google makes their money from the assimilation of your data. They then use that data to better target advertisements to you. Making Google even more money through their advertising. This is their only goal. Google is an advertising firm, anything else is a side project to get them more advertising money. Sadly for you and me and everyone else that means mediocre products and apps.

Yes, they are an advertising firm but I find their product to be better than that of Apples. I have to use both devices for work/personal life and I have much more trouble using and accomplishing what I am trying to do when using Apple products. Maybe Android works the way I think and Apple does not, I am not sure. But I can tell you I hate using an Apple products. And iTunes it complete crap!

I couldn't agree more. Whether I used iTunes on my MacBook Pro or iMac or PC, it's a pain in butt. I just can't stand it. Not to mention, few times I tried to get some music and video using my kid or wife's laptop while away, end up corrupting it and factory restoring clean. iTune and THE MUST of using cable, reminds me of old cars, where you had to insert a crank into the front of the engine, below the radiator, and turn it by hand until the engine started. Hand-cranking was inconvenient, difficult and sometimes dangerous. Doesn't it sound exactly like iTunes ?

Now, take for instance Airdroid. Works with every device, even ipad, no cable, no special software, not even a wifi. It's far faster than itunes and more capable.

Although I think all this voice assistant stuff is silly and not for me, I hope they bring something better than Siri to the table if to just shut fanboys up. I'll never use it but other will so good on them.

It will never shut fan boys up. they'll just say google copied apple and that siri is better even if it isn't or even if the tech is completely different. And anything it does that siri can't do they'll just say how silly and unnecessary it is. Yeah like I need my phone to tell me a joke and call me rock god! Get outta here with that goof shit!

I really don´t see apple fan boys on about much. I usually see Fandroids saying that they are. Most Apple fans, like Apple products and pretty much stay to themeselves, save for the one or two idiots you will find from time to time. But the Fandroids are the ones that seem to be really bothered by Apple. They comment the most on Apple related news, and always seem to have something to prove. Why can´t Fandroids simply praise what Google does with Android, focus on Android´s R&D and simply forget Apple. Who cares what Apple does, if the Galaxy Nexus is your favourite device?

And yet here we are with a recursive loop of pathetic fandom. Yes, blatant apple hypesters sure are hard to find.

You been living under a rock? Since the PC-Mac war Apple fanatics have been in your face obnoxious. Maybe you aren't old enough to remember.

I thought last year the rumor was that it was going to launch end of last year and then got pushed back. Something doesn't seem right with the story to me. They should already be a long way on it. And to be honest from the few folks I've seen using Siri Google simply missed out on marketing Voice Actions. People just use Siri now because they've seen the commercials and think its cool.

"And to be honest from the few folks I've seen using Siri Google simply missed out on marketing Voice Actions. People just use Siri now because they've seen the commercials and think its cool."

^^^That's exactly on the money. I couldn't said it better myself.

Android only got voice recognition, but didn't provided any good voice commands control using it (i know seach bar got some but does not seem work very well, specially internationally), they let devs to do it, some phoand it's unifies (all in one place insted of seperate voice apps).

What i think google could do better is add API support to developers, you sing widgets (same as apple use them as response to siri) and make it actully talk awnser where Siri mosty say "Heres the result, look on screen"... it might be difficult (assitent it's not simple commands) but could make Siri inferior where Apple choose partners, Google would have army of developer extending possibilities in dayly basis.

Thank you Alex for digging this out for us. Majel/Assistant has really been on my mind as of late. More new Apps with similar functions coming to the market, keep reminding of it absence. Such as the new "eyes free" 'Robin' by Magnifis Inc. ("Meet Robin, your personal eyes-free assistant on the road" >

Seeing the WSJ report "accelerating plans to launch" makes me growl a little. This has been a long wait in my mind. My finger's are crossed for more info at Google I/O.

What is frustrating to me is that there are still a lot of basic functions of the voice commands that aren't even as good as the old windows mobile version. When I say "Call XXXX XXXX at XXXXX" it will often times miss and just search the internet. Also, WM used to check the nickname field so I could put things like "dad" or "my wife" and it would know who I was talking about. These are simple, but frustratingly missing.

Just create something that's usable and practical. Siri, in it's current form is a joke...we all know that. Woz even said it doesn't have the same fuctionality as it did before Apple aquired it. It's a gimmick, albeit a good one, that got people to buy the 4S because aside from the camera, the 4S wasn't much of an upgrade from an average consumer's viewpoint. I love what Samsung has baked into this device, I like where the "personal assistant" technology is going...but I'm begging you the name of everything that is holy and android...please don't overthink it and try to make something that we can use effectively and efficiently on a daily basis...not some cheesy app that we can show off to our friends by cussing at it and asking it dirty questions when we're drunk at parties...though that isn't necessarily bad to do, once in a while. :D

The current Voice Actions is pretty well featured, so while it would be cool if they souped it up to compete with iOS 6 Siri, I don't believe this a critical area where Google is lacking. *I* personally wish they would focus on updating Google talk so I can send pictures, location, and get delivery reports - I rarely use A/V but feature parity with BlackBerry Messenger and new to the game iMessage SURE would be nice!

+1 on Assistant app from speektoit. Very well developed...both me and the wife use it on the regular. I have mine sounding like moneypenny and she calls me The Right Now...supposed to be The Rhyno but i just let it slide cause it sounds funny everytime.

Developing new ways to meaningfully interact with computers is an R&D effort that *all* the major players in this space should be working towards.

Nobody complained when all the computer manufacturers sold computers with the same QWERTY keyboard a couple decades ago. Why complain that multiple companies are developing voice interaction?


I am in the car a lot and here in the North East with our severe hands free laws I find myself talking to the phone more and more. The Voice Talk app in the GNote is a nice start but I think they really have to embed the assistant deep into the OS so it has access to apps and what the apps do. For example I can ask Voice Talk to play a Beatles song and because I told it my music is in Google Music - it will open that app to the Beatles - but it won't actually play a song, it stops at the Beatles catalog but can't seem to go deeper. Apps developers have to start designing their apps that can be used in this way to work with the voice assistant as well so that integration is second nature to the app as well.

Honestly, I'm not really interested in a Siri copycat. I think voice assistants are a silly gimmick. Until this bitch can make me a sandwich, I don't care.

Don't let iOS hate control you lol ;p It's not gimmick for headphones users and car drivers, voice recognition and synthesis is non-display equivlant of touch screen, if people like buttons on headphones they will like this too since you can anything with it, you not limited to buttons same as with touch screen, the key is good voice recognition.

As for being in form of assistant, it's better then using static commends that you need to remember.

You kidding me? I hate Crapple. Screw iOS, I want my sammich.

My comments advising assistants were gimmicky had nothing to do with support for Crapple. Anyways, I'll certantly be interested in hearing about how Google handles it, but as practical as assistants seem, humans have the strange curiosity to manhandle their devices, not tell them what to do.

Pretty sure this is what @vanadiumdroid was talking about with fandroids.

While there are aspects of Siri that are just a gimmick, it does things that no android app does, at least that I can find and I have looked. I would settle for google copying siri and be happy. But it will probably suck and only work on 2 phones in the US if you are lucky (Please see story about google wallet if you have doubts that google can get something out in mass)

I have of friends with IPhones and they simply don't use it. I'm sure its fun to play with and has some useful functions, but in the time it takes to talk to your device, most can handle it manually. I know voice commands are more practical in a hands-free environment (IE Driving) but it defeats the purpose of having a smartphone almost entirely then. I don't see the usefulness beyond asking an assistant to look up something for me which is a hell of a lot easier than typing it in. As smartphones get incredibly more robust, it's the features, games and touch interface that drives people to that device. People like the interaction. After all, these devices are replacing traditional social interactions. But what do I know, only time will tell.

I used to use it for setting timers while cooking, setting alarms and reminding me to do something when I got to work or home or when I left. Siri was way easier then trying to type those out on the phone. And timers isn't something any android 'copy' can do that I have found. It doesn't do the location based stuff either, unless that was the one assistant app I didn't try.

You are wrong to the point of illegitimacy. The Assistant app mentioned & linked above does timers, movie tickets, Google maps etc etc etc quite well. Everything they advertise with Siri can be done with Assistant. And it is customizable with voice & appearance. Something Siri is not capable of.

This is EXACTLY how I feel. None odd the state of the art voice command assistants work over Bluetooth on my Evo LTE. I finally found one that works (Voice Control Test) but it's amazing how rare it is!

I had a SGSII and sold it an got an iphone4s because I had never tried an iphone an its not all that bad. Over the years I have really cared less an less about the functions of a phone itself so I got the iphone knowing that it isnt better than the SGSII but to just see how it works an all that. I have a macbook pro and a iphone but I sold my ipad an got a transformer prime because you can do more. So by no means am I an apple or android fanboy..i like the simplicity of apple and the geekiness of android. People get too caught up in the android-apple war because at the end of the day, ppl who call apple sheep are basically the same thing....sheep. Anything that android puts out gets purchased just like apple products do so its kinda silly to call someone something that you are as well. I will say this has one phone thats upgraded yearly and android 200 phones that are upgraded yearly. Companies should go by the less is more reasoning because every few months there is a new android phone thats better than the last an its getting ridiculous bc most times it is not even really better, just newer.

I think I don't need some stupid robot voice doing gimmicky things. I just need it to do what I tell it to do and read to me when I tell it to, and it already does all this. Call me a party pooper but I'm very satisfied with the voice functionality already. As long as they don't make it too gimmicky I'd be OK with it. But I definitely don't want to be treated like some narcissistic schmoozer and have my phone call me "rock god".

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I use this feature, and it works pretty well.
I can see the usefulness in setting reminders or alarms, but beyond this when I have my phone I'm looking at the screen reading something.
Voice is never going to be that big of a deal for this as I don't want something reading an article for me. Also I'm not going to talk to my phone out in public and look like an idiot. I hope they don't bury too much time in developing voice for everything because I could think of better things to put their time into.

Blah, I don't want to talk to my phone or have a conversation/relationship with it. Even in Star Trek, as great as the computer voice recognition may be, they still have humans sitting at the helm controlling the ship by touch, not voice! There's a reason for that. :)

Actually I can see a voice integration as being very useful: from asking for the score of a ballgame, setting timers and alarms, locational reminders. There are times when simply asking the question works better than typing and getting the "right" answer is better than getting a list of possible answers. It's all dependent on execution though. The voice recognition must be great, the search context must be discernable and the use of the interface must be unobtrusive.

There's nothing wrong with something being mildly additive if it is additive.

I want this feature because when I'm inside my house, I want to know if it's raining outside. Without a voice app I would never be able to determine this information on my own. I could look up at my skylight or out a window but who has time for all that?

Please NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Google should drop this gimmick. Who cares about talking to your phone and ASKING it for the weather. Really, unless you are driving--where you should be handsfree--why do people want this? I think it's cool, but unless you can say to your phone, "Get me a beer," and it responds with,"Pale Ale or Amber?" and then produces's a joke, and a waste of time.

No, I'm no prude, I have a rooted GNex, with AOPK ROM.

I agree, this is ridiculous stuff. Google should not waste their time doing gimicky functionality like this for its users. If I saw someone walking down the street talking and asking their phone questions it would most likely result in me laughing out loud. And I don't see people doing this. Because it's not getting used.

We've had voice recognition for a long time now anyways. And the quality of it isn't why I never used it. I never used it because it's silly. I'm not gonna want to talk to any other electronics around the house either. I'm going to use them. I can't see people in front of their monitors later on without keyboards either, telling the screen what to type. We're all gonna resemble the community from 'Wall-E'.