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CheapAir.com Mobile Voice Search Not Very “Natural”


Several sites are touting a new voice search feature on the CheapAir.com app. The company says that it uses the iPhone’s own speech recognition capability on the front end, but then does some semantic parsing on its side to deliver flight search results.

I tried the app and found that its voice search fell quite short of my expectations. You can’t speak “naturally” and get good results. For example, you can’t say something like, “I need to go to Chicago on April 7 from San Francisco.”

Several sites are touting a new voice search feature on the CheapAir.com app. The company says that it uses the iPhone’s own speech recognition capability on the front end, but then does some semantic parsing on its side to deliver flight search results.

I tried the app and found that its voice search fell quite short of my expectations. You can’t speak “naturally” and get good results. For example, you can’t say something like, “I need to go to Chicago on April 7 from San Francisco.”

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If you form a query loosely or conversationally — if you speak to it as you would an “assistant” — you’ll get an error message asking you to formulate a more structured query in a way the system can better understand. The app doesn’t do “natural language processing.”

If you start speaking the app’s more structured language (to/from cities and dates) it represents a quick way to input data (speech-to-text) that may be faster for some than manually typing or inputting information into the app.

However, the promise of something like this is that you could formulate less structured queries such as, “When is the cheapest time to fly to Hawaii from San Francisco?” or “I need to go to New York on July 2nd” and get a decent result.

Maybe that will come at some future point.

 

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