Google’s popular free 411 service GOOG-411 (1-800-4664-411) is now available in Canada. The toll-free directory service that uses Google results to give people phone numbers and addresses of local businesses launched in the States back in April of last year. Since then it’s added an SMS maps service that will send you a link to the WAP-friendly map. The computerized operator has also since been enhanced, and now has a voice closer to the all-seeing HAL 9000 seen in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 instead of the Microsoft Sam-like one from before.
With the updated version the real work is not just in the sound of the voice, it’s also in the service’s capability to understand what people are saying. To that end, Google’s official blog post on it says the voice recognition engine was tuned to better understand some of the Canadian dialects:
Although English is spoken in both the U.S. and Canada, there are enough differences between the way it’s spoken in the two countries that we engineered GOOG-411 especially for Canadian English. We incorporated some Canadianisms [sic] such as “eh,” “Traw-na,” “Cal-gry,” and, of course, “aboot.” We also took into account geographical differences. Whereas users in the U.S. are prompted for “city and state,” Canadians are asked for your “city and province.”
For the segment of French-speaking Canadians, the announcement also says an updated version of the service with support for localized French is coming soon, which might lead to international variations for large markets in Europe.