Google has announced a number of enhancements to its Voice Search that is included as part of the Google Search app for iOS.
Google's Voice Search is seen as the main competitor to Apple's Siri functionality, and both services aim to decrease the reliance on virtual keyboards and enable voice as a means of interacting with a mobile device. Voice Search also forms part of Google's Chrome app which was also recently eleased for iOS.
The update will tap into Google's Knowledge Graph function, which is designed to more precisely understand the meaning of words. The example gives is that 'Rio' can mean a city, a movie, or a casino. Knowledge Graph aims to understand the context of your word and provides a more complete picture. This also forms part of the Google Now service, which provides personalised information based upon your time and location.
Siri, on the other hand, taps into services such as Wolfram Alpha (the self-proclaimed 'Computational Knowledge Engine') that is designed to calculate answers across a range of topics.
As the name suggests, Voice Search primarily interacts with Google's web search tool, whereas Siri is seen as a more all-round service that enables users to interact with a device (create messages, calendar events, open apps, and so on).
Opinion on Voice Search versus Siri is somewhat divided.
There have been quite a few independent tests and the general consensus is that Google is better at pure search, whereas Siri is better for finding local information such as restaurants (although this feature will only arrive in the UK with iOS 6) and general interaction.
Both services have a way to go before they start to fundamentally replace touch interaction and keyboard interaction but both Apple and Google seem to be committed to slowly improving voice search funcitionality.
The announcement comes as the competition between Google and Apple appears to be intensifying, Google has introduced a new low-cost rival to the iPad in the form of the Nexus 7 tablet; and Apple will be removing YouTube and replacing Google Maps with a propriety service in the upcoming iOS 6 operating system.
The improved Google App is with Apple for approval and should appear on the app store within a few days.