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A talking search engine

5:46 am on Nov 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

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This is kind of interesting:
A Scottish computer speech technology company has launched what it claims to be the world's first talking search engine.


Search results will be in an American voice, but newsfeeds will be in a Scottish accent.

2:23 am on Nov 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

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To some extent, righton a1cal!

Hmmm ... is this the future of speech synthesis?

Ummm ... no ... but if you were wondering whether speech synthesis could possibly be applied to dynamic content, well then it's not a bad demonstration.

Now, we have a mechanism to parse a dynamic web page and break the output down into syllabic phrases which could then be interpreted.

What about Farsi? Or Hebrew? Or Spanish?

How about adding an avatar to mouth the "words"?

Maybe a local search implementation with a custom avatar (an animation of YOU) housed on your hard drive that also accesses your local files and emails and allows you to rummage for a beer in the fridge while shouting out "cheap sailboats" and "next page" and "THAT one!" and "BUY IT!" ... without ever once looking at your screen?

I embrace and welcome this attempt. More before and after, I'm sure.


10:18 am on Nov 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I decided to respond to some of the comments you have been making.

First of all you should note the big 'Technology Preview' stamp, this is equivilent to Google's BETA label.
The technology is still in development and is pretty good most of the time.

Doesn't accessibility software for the blind do this sort of thing already?

Some do, yes. Most blind people, however, do not have access to an adequate screen reader. The 'industry standard' screen reader used by the majority of visually impaired people is very expensive, near 800 i belive, a lot of people cannot afford this.
You also assume that they'll be at THEIR PC all of the time. If they were to go to a friends house or internet cafe for example, they could not take their screen reader with them.
Screen readers are not designed specifically to do searching either, they will just read nearly every bit of text it can find on a page, most of which isn't needed.

I really hope they refine the voices to be smooth.

The voices that are currently used were picked for several reasons, speed of processing, pronunciation accuracy and ease of understanding.
They do have other, smoother, voices but they are not availible on the search at present.

For some reason, it kept skipping the 1st result when reading out the SERPS.

There are several reasons why it can skip a result.

At present they are using Google for results, however their backend supports several other search engines.

Another excellent use for this technology which you have all missed is for people who do not speak English as a first language, people who can understand spoken English but can not read or write it. Speegle currently gets a very large number of hits from Japan and several other countrys.
For another example of why it is useful try searching for:

site:howstuffworks.com engine

or similar.

In regard to the comments about what do people do after they've found a result...
Speegle can read out (most) arbitrary webpages, they just don't let you do it yet.

Speegle is getting a huge number of hits and searches at the moment, which puts a lot of strain on the server.
They are currently working on sourcing additional hardware and bandwidth to provide a smoother and less laggy service.

11:27 am on Nov 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

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This will be great for blind and visually impaired people using internet cafe's where they don't have the browsers they may use at home... also what about using this on a mobile phone to search the web? Sounds good to me.. I think this is all about potential.
3:17 pm on Nov 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Hi there Speegleguy - i say well done, and i am definately looking forward to see where you guys take this technology. Having worked with a people of both visual and learning disabilities I am excited about how developments in this area of technology can be beneficial to them.
5:51 pm on Nov 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

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...excellent use ...is for people who do not speak English

Exactly. In one of our other businesses, we have a large non-english-speaking, non-computer-literate clientele. This kind of technology has allowed them to connect to our internet applications via telephone in their language.

10:06 pm on Nov 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Fast creation of the SpeegleGuy account, and impressive response time from SpeegleGuy. This just might go viral.

Went back for a second look and test, and have to say, I like the keyboard shortcutting on the page. In fact, that alone impressed me more than anything. Such a simple thing to add, and yet you're the first to do it.

I've gone back and whacked a couple of searches out, and it still seems to be missing the first link or more when it reads out the results, this seems to be in direct correlation to overall response time, so I'm thinking it's somehow related to server load. The higher the server load, the longer it takes for the speech synthesis to kick in, and the more of the top few results you miss.

So far, worst response was the "read" starting at response #4.

BTW: This is not to be taken as a complaint, just an indicator of what the end user might be seeing/hearing, so you can work out bug fixes.

8:59 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Nice Job!

What caught my attention was that I have other speech software (with different voices) on my machine. And the search engine used it's own voices (voices that I don't have installed on my machine). So, I wondered if it was because I already had speech software installed or was the activex component it downloads the only thing needed. But you already answered in your post.

Thanks for the preview!

BTW, I'm not blind or anything that requires acessability. I just liked the concept that I could just listen instead of read. I guess maybe I'm just lazy.

9:27 pm on Nov 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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All I can think of is "This is Amiga speaking" ROFL
10:38 pm on Dec 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Speegle looks very interesting to me.

To be useful for blind/visually impaired people shouldn't it have the ability to read aloud pages it returns in its search results? E.g. read aloud a cached version of the page? The best option would be a toolbar that could read any page it comes across.

The best results would be a merger of this type of technology with voice recognition/data input technology. No more using that annoying tiny keypad on my mobile/pda! Instead I could speak commands to my mobile ("search for hotmail.com"), listen to the results it finds, then dictate an email to it (software inputs/understands html forms) and send it. Role on the future! :)

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