Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is making a few moves to shore up an area that Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) has aggressively attacked this year: voice-driven mobile search coupled with local recommendations. It has acquired the team behind Alfred, a neat mobile butler app, and has also reportedly prepped an answer to Apple’s Siri.
Clever Sense, the team that developed Alfred, announced Tuesday that they had been acquired by Google for an undisclosed amount. “We worked hard to build the Clever Sense Platform to tackle the problem of information overload in the real world. … Together with the Google team, we will accelerate our efforts toward this shared vision.”
Alfred lets iOS and Android users “teach” the app the types of places they like to go so when they find themselves in an area where they aren’t sure what to do, Alfred has a pre-sorted list of preferences to apply against businesses in the area. It’s the kind of personalization that Google doesn’t always do as well as others, having been designed to figure out “what’s relevant” in a given context but without as many clues provided directly by the user.
Combined with Majel, which Android and Me reports is Google’s mobile voice-recognition project along the lines of Apple’s Siri, and Google could be putting together an interesting take on mobile search. Google has done an awful lot of voice-recognition work within Android already, but the voice commands on Android don’t necessarily work with the kinds of natural-language phrases that Apple has been advertising heavily for Siri.
Voice search and commands make a ton of sense on a mobile device but remain a tricky engineering problem: trying to tell your phone to call a cab on a windy, rainy corner in a big city at rush hour can easily go awry. Still, it’s a much more intuitive way of interacting with your phone, and Google needs to make sure that it has something equally good as Siri in order to protect its main source of revenue: search advertising.