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Google app baffled by accents

Alex Christie

5 February 2009

Someone has managed to detect a “defect” in Google’s search capability in a voice recognition search application designed specifically for iPhones. Great in theory but as with most things in life completely different in practice.

The problem is that the software does not recognise many accents. This has been particularly highlighted in the U.K. where certain requested search terms are being mistaken for other words. In more than one case the word “iPhone” was mistaken for “Einstein, sex or kitchen sink”.

It has further been established that different accents will deliver different results, using the phrase “iPhone” as the common search term here are some of the results:

Scottish accent equates it to the term “sex” while if you are from Surrey you likely to find “Einstein”. A Welsh accent gives you “gorilla” or “kitchen sink”. The most recognisable accent for Google was a Yorkshire accent although at times even this delivered the result for the term “bonfire”.  

It makes me wonder what would happen should this service be introduced in South Africa where have 11 official languages, hundreds of dialects and vast amounts of cultural and ethnic groups. With its strong North American bias I suppose that it's back to drawing board for the Google technicians with this piece of software.

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