Mar 182011

Google Oct. 8 said it would be winding down its
voice-powered directory assistance service that helped connect users to
businesses in the United States and Canada on Nov. 12.

Google launched 1-800-GOOG-411 in 2007. While the company
advertised the service on billboards as a directory service people used to find
businesses across the country, it may have helped the company’s future software
endeavors even more.

The search engine used peoples’ thousands of voice
requests to polish its own speech recognition capabilities.

Specifically, Google mined users’ spoken information
requests to gain speech patterns and intonations to analyze and improve the way
its own speech recognition software works. 

This, Google said, “helped provide a foundation for
more ambitious services now available on smartphones.”

These include the iconic Voice Search and Voice Input
technologies available on most Android smartphones, such as Verizon Wireless’
Droid lineup and the HTC Evo 4G from Sprint. 

But the real replacement for GOOG-411 is the Voice
Actions for Android service Google launched in August.

Actions let users call any business from their Android smartphone by saying
its name, allowing users on-the-go to more efficiently contact restaurants,
local shops and other establishments.

“Our success encouraged us to aim for more
innovation,” according
to a Google blog post. “Thus, we’re putting all of our resources into
speech-enabling the next generation of Google products and services across a
multitude of languages.”

Google is still helping users who don’t own a smartphone
find local businesses. Feature phone users may send a text message with
the name and location of the business to 466453 (“GOOGLE”) and
service representatives for GOOG-411 will text them the info.

Google also recommends Gmail users leverage its Call
Phones from Gmail feature to call any U.S. business free.

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