Google today announced that the light version of its search called Go can now read virtually any website to you. The Go app can now read content in more than two dozen languages in order to help people listen to articles and web pages.
The service was made for people interested in listening to longform articles, news stories, or any other website similar to a way you may hear an ebook reading with pause, play, and 2x speed control. The service was also made for for those who is busy and has trouble finding time to read.
By contrast, Amazon’s Alexa can read Kindle books that don’t have a narrator.
In the future, the same text-to-speech systems could be used to read content in other popular Google apps or services, Google VP Yossi Matias told VentureBeat in a phone interview.
“This presents some interesting opportunities in the future, as is the case for many other forms that we are using TTS which is how to improve the experience, how to make it more natural, how to adapt it, how to personalize it, these are kind of interesting directions that we may be exploring in the future,” he said.
Matias works at the intersection of search and artificial intelligence and is head of Google R&D Center in Tel Aviv, where engineers work on research related to Google Trends, and Duplex.
The reader for Go released today should be considered the first step, Matias said. Engineers are continuing to consider ways to make the service more natural and personalized.
Various forms of AI are used both to carry out text-to-speech technology, and to decide what not to read on a page and identify the correct path of a page. Also being considered for future versions of the Go app are descriptions of images in web articles.
Google engineers are working on the dictionary experience in search, and since the reader pronounces each word while highlighting each word in real-time could also be used to teach people new languages, Matias said.
“At this time, we are starting with the basic,” he said. “As we think about the more of the research aspects of text understanding, being able to analyze and decide what to read, there are some interesting questions that one can envision in the future. One is summarization, another one is can you get me to the part that is of most interest to me if we’re talking about long text.”
The reader for the Go app uses WaveNet speech synthesis to imitate an expressive human voice and is available in 26 languages. The light version of the Google search app is currently available in 28 countries including Brazil, Indonesia, India, and many African countries like Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and Ghana.
News that the Go app reads articles and websites for you was announced today at the Google 4 India event. The announcement comes a week after Google VP Scott Huffman said Google Assistant usage has gone up 3x this year in India.
Go that reads is the latest use of conversational AI to democratize access for information for people in developing countries.
Earlier this year, Cainkade Studio working with the Colombian government launched My Line to make Google Assistant available to answer questions over the phone.
Speaking last week at Transform, Uber head of product Jairam Ranganathan talked about potentially using conversational AI to automate Uber ridesharing services in parts of the world where people may be more interested in a phone than using a smartphone app.