updated 02:00 pm EST, Fri December 3, 2010
Google acquires Phonetic Arts for voice results
Google on Friday confirmed that it had bought Phonetic Arts in a boost to spoken text on mobile devices. The Cambridge, UK-based company is best known for a suite of tools that generate more natural-sounding computer-generated voices by blending phonemes together and sampling real voices. It would most likely be used for tools such as Google Maps Navigation on Android but also Google Translate and other independent features.
The team is expected to join Google's London office in the near future. Neither company has detailed the specific future plans, but it would "move a little faster towards that Star Trek future," Speech Technology manager Mike Cohen said.
Acquiring Phonetic Arts might widen Google's edge in speech technology over Apple. Google already has more extensive voice commands through Android 2.2's Voice Actions, but Apple recently bought out Siri with an aim towards more natural language searching, although it didn't share the same emphasis on voice synthesis as Phonetic Arts. iPhones have spoken features such as VoiceOver and acknowledgements of commands in Voice Control, but these have a relatively limited pool of dialogue and are usually based on existing Mac OS X voice feedback.