Google Shows Off Voice Recognition by Letting You Title Silent Film Clips

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 19 2013 6:19 PM

Google Shows Off Voice Recognition by Letting You Title Silent Film Clips

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Can you hear me now, Google?

Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

Unless you’re talking to someone on Skype, most of us prefer to interact with our computers by typing, not speaking out loud. But Google has been working hard on voice recognition, as demonstrated by the recent roll-out of the Web Speech API for Chrome. To demonstrate just how well it works, they’ve released a neat little tool that lets you add your voice to classic silent-film clips.

Just open up Chrome (yes, it must be Chrome) and head over to PeanutGalleryFilms.com. There, you can select a black-and-white segment. As it plays, any words you vocalize will appear as old-timey titles.

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The voice recognition isn’t yet perfect; as the Peanut Gallery “about” page admits, you can’t use proper nouns, and if you want punctuation, you have to say “comma” or “question mark” aloud. (I tested this out with the 1902 film A Trip to the Moon. As actors ventured out of their spacecraft and onto the surface of the moon, I said, “There’s Elon Musk.” Google rendered that as “There’s a long mask.”)

But all pickiness aside, it’s a fun tool that could serve Google well. Responses might help the company refine its voice recognition. Perhaps it will also help those who use neither Siri nor Google Voice Search become comfortable speaking aloud to a machine. Both will be particularly important as Google comes closer to releasing Glass—as my colleague Will Oremus points out, it appears that Glass will be controlled in large part by speech.

Watch a demonstration of the Peanut Gallery below.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

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