The rival technology giants are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in their competing services, Google Now and Siri, and the field is expected to be a major battleground for their mobile operating systems, Android and iOS.
Both Conglomerates have teams of engineers working to crack the problems of making machines understand complex spoken questions and answer them in natural sentences. Google’s goal is to create a service comparable to the computer of the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek.
Google Now aims to anticipate what people will want from their smartphone by reading their calendar and emails, and analysing their location. On an overseas trip it will serve up flight information based on booking confirmation emails.
Google Glass, the company’s wearable device, is among the first of a new generation of mobile technology it hopes will get people to talk to its services. Google Now will also target smart watches, cars and the living room, allowing people to ask the television questions.
Apple has apparently recognised Google’s advantage. This month it paid a huge sum to acquire Topsy, a start-up focused on finding patterns in the 500m tweets posted on Twitter every day.