Thursday, December 15, 2011

Google's answer to Siri coming soon, named 'Majel'

We've said it before: something as complex and integrated as an Android version of Apple's Siri will need to come from Google, not some third party. As you'd expect, whether as a direct response to Siri or something Google had been working on already, it's coming, and could be here as soon as the end of the year.

Considering that the end of the year is only about two weeks away, that may not happen, but what is happening, according to Android and Me, is that the project is live, and being worked on around the clock at Google X, which is the company's "top secret" laboratory, which the New York Times profiled in November.

The project is an extension of Google's existing Voice Actions app. That app, while offering voice command support, is sadly lacking when compared to the natural language interface of Siri. [That said, Siri is still beta, and fails more frequently than Apple fans want to admit.] The codename for the project, which we'd love to see as the product's actual name upon release, is Majel.

Majel, for non-Trekkers, comes from the late Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Nurse Chapel on Star Trek: The Original Series and TOS movies, and Deanna Troi's mother Lwaxana in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

However, and this is where the codename comes into play, she also supplied the computer voice for Star Trek: TOS, Star Trek: TNG, Star Trek: DS9, Star Trek: Voyager, and most of the Star Trek movies. She also reprised her role as the onboard computer voice in two episodes of the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise.

Because of the compressed timeline for the development of Majel, reportedly, only Google search queries will be accessible in the product's first release. However, Majel is also expected to speak with a more humananistic voice, thanks to Google's late 2010 acquisition of Phonetic Arts.

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry passed away on December 18, 2008 at the age of 76. Gene Roddenberry died on October 24, 1991 at the age of 70. Both are expected to be enshrined in space in a 2012 memorial spaceflight.

While we don't expect Majel to sound like Star Trek's computer --- let's admit it --- it would be cool. So while we await the product's release, let's watch a brief clip featuring our favorite Lt. Commander and the ship's computer from TNG.

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