MANILA, Philippines – Google has announced the launch of Voice Search for the Filipino language, saying it hopes this will allow Filipino speakers to speak their queries to Google on their smartphones, helping them find information on the Web more quickly and efficiently.

“At Google, we want to make it easier and faster for you to get the answers that you need, simply by speaking your queries to Google. We are delighted to launch these new Search tools for the Filipino language and demonstrate our commitment to Filipinos and to continually improving their search experience,” said Gail Tan, head of public affairs and communications of Google Philippines.

The Filipino Voice Search is activated for all Android mobile devices running Android 2.0 or higher. To access Voice Search on mobile, make sure Voice Search (under Language and Input settings) is set to Filipino. Then just tap the microphone icon on the Google search bar, and speak your query, and voila — see your spoken words get transcribed automatically, and searched for on Google.

Each time Google brings Voice Search to a new language, the company teaches computers to understand the sounds and words that make up spoken language. Google does this by working with native speakers to collect speech samples to model the language.

To power this launch, Google engineers had to build a Filipino speech language model from the ground up. Google worked with volunteers from the University of Philippines Diliman. Many student volunteers helped, including students who were able to record their family members to get a broader demographic of voice samples. Once the samples were collected, acoustical and language models were built to teach computers how to “recognize” Filipino.

The major challenge in the language modeling is that Filipino speakers frequently mix several languages in their daily life, most notably English. To construct an accurate language model, Google had to ensure that the lexicon could predict pronunciations for English words that were mixed in with the Filipino.

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Due to diversity of the accents across the Philippines, it was necessary to widen sampling and double the amount of acoustic samples Google would get for any other language. Voice Search can recognize regional accents in Filipino, but it is not 100 percent perfect. The good thing is that the language model improves as more people use Voice Search.

Availability of Filipino Voice Search: Mobile — All Android 2.0+ devices; coming soon to iPhone via the Google Search App (available for download from the App Store); Desktop — Coming soon via Chrome browser on the Google homepage (google.com.ph).

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