Will Majel voice Google's rebuttal to Apple's Siri?

Report says a new Google voice assistant would accept natural language commands, similar to Apple's Siri, and could arrive on Android devices early next year.

Google may soon launch a new, more sophisticated voice assistant for Android devices that can respond to natural language commands, claims tech enthusiast site Android and Me.

Codenamed Majel after the late "Star Trek" actress Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, who provided the voice of the computer for all of the later versions of the popular science fiction TV series, the new voice assistant could launch as early as January or February.

If the report holds true, Majel would be an upgrade to Android's current Voice Actions app , which lets you make calls, send e-mails, search the Web, get directions, and perform other actions via your voice. But in its current incarnation, Voice Actions relies on preset voice commands in contrast to Siri, which lets you converse more naturally.

Details are sparse at this point. Google did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.

But Android and Me says that only Google search queries would be accessible in the first release since engineers have been working hard to get Majel off the ground. The project is reportedly being cooked up at Google X, the company's "secret" laboratory designed to turn futuristic ideas into reality, as profiled recently by The New York Times.

Majel is also expected to speak with a more human-sounding voice, thanks to Google's purchase of Phonetic Arts, according to Android and Me. If so, then Majel could be able to converse with people just as Siri does.

Different developers have been busy creating their own Android counterparts to Siri , but so far there's been nothing from Google itself beyond Voice Actions.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt recently referred to Siri as a "significant development" but one that he thinks could threaten the search giant's core business . Siri uses Google by default to perform a Web search. But Siri users can also tap into Bing, Yahoo, Wolfram Alpha, and a host of other online services to track down information and answers.

 

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