Google demos underwater voice search

Summary:Ever wanted to know what the share price of Google is from the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef? Now, thanks to some nifty work by Google Australia engineers, you can.

Ever wanted to know what the share price of Google is from the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef? Now, thanks to some nifty work by Google Australia engineers, you can.

After venturing into caves, underwater and into the middle of the desert in September, engineers from Google Australia's Chrome team have pushed Google Android's Voice Search to the limit.

In videos posted on Google's Australian blog today, Noel Gordon and Alice Boxhall set themselves up on a boat off the Great Barrier Reef, and, using a transducer, ask questions to Google's Voice Search application.

Gordon described the undertaking as "a challenging experiment" on the deck of the boat, adding that it may require "a couple of goes". He wasn't wrong, either, with the Voice Search application missing the first attempt to understand Boxhall's query: "Great Barrier Reef".

On the second attempt, however, the Sony Xperia, with which the two were testing, picked up the search term and displayed the results accordingly.

"Bingo!" exclaimed Gordon.

Google engineers also ventured deep into the South Australian desert in order to test the Voice Search app where it had never been used before. Two engineers set up large convex satellite-style dishes 50 metres apart. Facing towards the two dishes, one Google engineer spoke the query, while the other captured it with the handset 50 metres away.

This is the first time that anyone has come out here and attempted to do a Google Voice Search," said engineer Mike Lawther.

Questions included "how to treat a brown snake bite" and "where's the nearest toilet", which yielded a result of 66 kilometres to the south.

Lawther said on the blog post that the tests were conducted after it was discovered that Australia had one of the lowest take-up rates for Voice Search globally, despite the fact that we have the second-highest smartphone penetration in the world.

Lawther challenged users to search "using their broadest Aussie accent" from now on.

Apple has sought to burst Google's voice search bubble in the Australian market, after releasing the iPhone 4S with an "intelligent voice assistant" on-board, and capable of picking up the Australian accent.

The assistant, known as Siri, is able to set appointments, send texts, set reminders and search the web via Google, as well as find answers to questions via Wolfram Alpha.

Microsoft is also updating its voice push for the local market, yesterday updating its Kinect for Xbox 360 product with Australian accent support.

Topics: Google, Mobility


A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.