Cos (cos) wrote,

Freaky Google Beta

I recently posted on coslinks about Google's new "Google Voice Local Search" - a national toll free 411-like number that uses voice recognition and gives you business & government phone listings. Huh, I wondered, why would Google want to run a telephone directory assistance service? Then I tried it, it freaked me out.

I called, it asked me for city and state, and I said "Cambridge, Massachusetts". It repeated that back to me, voice recognition successful, though its pronounciation a bit strange. "Business name or category?" On a whim, I asked for "the lily pad", since I'd just seen a show there. It found no listing for the Lily Pad, "but here are some related listings", it told me...

"number one: Licensing Comission."

Huh, maybe because it's in Cambridge and starts with an "li-" sound and has two words?

I couldn't understand numbers 2 & 3, because of Goog411's weird pronounciation, though I could tell they were both the same. Then came the freaky part:

"number four: Zeitgeist Gallery, on Cambridge Street."

*blink*blink* "Zeitgeist" doesn't sound anything like "Lily Pad", and the Zeitgeist is gone! But... it's very "related" - it's what used to be at the space the Lily Pad is in now, before it was the Lily Pad! It was even pretty much the same thing, a small performance space with art on the walls. But if Goog411 couldn't even find a listing for the Lily Pad, how did this uncannily appropriate listing turn up???

A few hours later, I had a flash: I'd been thinking of this as a telephone directory search, like traditional 411, but it's not. It's Google voice local Search - the key being "Google search" (cross-referenced to a telephone directory). The collective wisdom of the web might make it clear that the Lily Pad is related to the Zeitgeist. As soon as I thought of that, I also realized why the Cambridge Licensing Commission number had come up - both the Zeitgeist and the Lily Pad had had their licenses for live entertainment challenged by noise complaints, and had highly locally-publicized hearings before the licensing board.

Sure enough, a Google search for cambridge "lily pad" turns up multiple hits that mention that it is at the former home of the Zeitgeist, and multiple hits referring to licensing board hearings. And when I called back, I figured out that option 2/3 was Ryle's, a live music venue a block away from the Lily Pad. Option 5 is All Asia, another small performance space in Cambridge.

411 that thinks like Google. Now I see why it's something Google would do.

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