Speech recognition always seems to be on the verge of having a big impact, only to recede into the shadows after each breakthrough. The latest arrival is the latest update to the Google app for the iPhone which adds voice search capabilities. The idea is quite promising and seems to be reasonable well designed. After launching the app, you lift the phone to your ear. The accelerometers in the iPhone sense the movement and the phone starts listening to your speech. You speak your search words and Google translates it into a text search.

This morning I was in a conference about pancreas transplantation and had a few lingering questions, so I decided to give it a try with the search words “pancreas transplantation”.

My first attempt yielded “sexy costumes.” Not exactly what I was looking for. Yes, I am sure I want to delete my search history.

With a second try, I got “transportation.” Close, but not quite.

The third and fourth attempts failed completely.

With the fifth, Google returned “Michigan”.

To be fair to Google, all this was done while I was walking to my office, but I spoke clearly and slowly.

Finally, I tried again in the calm of my office. The first attempt couldn’t be processed by Google, but another try finally got the correct results.

The speech recognition is supposed to get better as more people use it, but so far I’m not terribly impressed.

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