In 2008, Google launched Voice Search for mobile phones, and this past June made it available for computers. What the program allows is for the user to “search by voice” on a digital device. Now, “voice hunters” are traveling the around the world looking for voice samples so the program can understand as many languages, and in turn, as many users as possible.
Since Google did not believe the standard lexicons usually offered by companies that license the voice samples, a voice hunter has been sent to scour the globe for voice samples in over 300 languages.
Voice Hunter Linne Ha told Fast Company she travels around the world collecting the samples with help from local Google users. The users are given an “Android smartphone loaded with a specially designed speech-gathering app,” which they then go out into their communities as use.
“The local experts are people who would be using our products,” Ha told FC. “We want to make sure that whatever we develop is something they would want to use.”
Though weather conditions can sometimes be an issue in her travels, Ha said she has not had an issue with finding participants.
“People are really proud of their language,” Ha says. “They want to make sure [Voice Search] works properly and that they can use it with their native tongue.”
So far, 27 languages are supported, leaving only 273 more to go, which could take Ha another decade to collect. Luckily, she and Google are looking for reinforcements.