iPhone Voice Recognition Search App Can't Handle Accents

Dennis Faas's picture

Think the iPhone is a fantastic new technology that should be celebrated the world 'round, not unlike Apple's iPod? Well, if you live in Britain (or perhaps any region other than North America) you may have trouble with one of its popular features.

The iPhone includes a number of handy tools, including a touch screen, mp3 playback, video display, organizational utilities, and games. However, many fans in the US are particularly fond of a new iPhone tool: voice recognition-based search. Unfortunately, for those using the device in Britain the voice-recognition tool is struggling to compensate for their accents.

According to reports out of London, the word "iPhone" was sometimes understood as "sex", "Einstein", and "kitchen sink". Obviously something is wrong with the technology because even in a thick Welsh accent "iPhone" is difficult to mistake for hanky-panky. (Source: stuff.co.nz)

Google provides the search engine for the tool and is taking as much (or more) flak for the problem as Apple. Britons have bombarded the Daily Telegraph with angry comments, including one quip from someone named "Kevin" who angrily snorted, "Awesome job google. only problem is every time I say the word 'fish' it registers as 'sex'."

The problem seems to have caught both Apple and especially Google by surprise. In a video demonstration on the Google Mobile App web site, people with American, Irish, British, and Chinese accents successfully query the engine. That kind of confidence, or what some might call "false advertising", has users in Britain especially angry. When a Yorkshire man said "iPhone", he received a number of results, including "bonfire". A Surrey user received "Einstein" and "myspace" and a Welsh man got "gorillas" and "kitchen sink". Of course, the most concerning result was the explicit web page a Scottish man received when asking for "iPhone". (Source: yahoo.com)

The issue obviously has Britons inflamed. Many wonder why a device marketed to them isn't fully functional, while others argue that the iPhone has a disturbingly North American bias.

There's no word yet on how Apple or Google plan to fix the issue.

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