Google’s Nexus One muzzles the foul-mouthed

January 22, 2010

One of the most innovative features of Google’s new Nexus One is the built-in voice recognition. But there’s one major limitation that Reuters discovered while putting the smartphone through its paces: the phone is a bit of a prig.

N1Screen1Try uttering a curse word into the Nexus One, and the well-mannered device will automatically replace the offensive expression with a string of # symbols.

Thus, a jocular text message inquiring about a buddy’s whereabouts is transcribed as “Hey #### where are you?” on the Nexus One; A spirited rejoinder to a dubious assertion becomes “that’s bull #### and you know it.”

While perhaps not as politically charged as Google’s censorship of Internet search results in China (a practice Google recently said it will no longer engage in), this restriction of free speech for the foul-mouthed is puzzling, and somewhat inconvenient.

So why the no-curse policy? After all, what business is it of Google’s if a person chooses to be profane in their private communications?

A Google spokeswoman provided a statement suggesting that replacing curses with # symbols aimed less at enforcing etiquette than to ensure that offensive words don’t accidentally appear in transcriptions – a potential concern  given the fact that voice recognition technology is still not perfect.

“We filter potentially offensive or inappropriate results because we want to avoid situations whereby we might misrecognize a spoken query and return profanity when, in fact, the user said something completely innocent,” said Google.

“Ultimately our goal is to return results that show exactly what you said, and we’re constantly working to improve the technology to better fit our users’ needs,” the statement continued.

In other words, until the technology improves, you’ll have to be civil, whether you like it or not.

3 comments

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####!

Posted by mathiastck | Report as abusive

Err, I don’t like to point of the #### obvious but, you’re talking about technology that WILL make mistakes, now consider: You want to use the word “duck”, Google’s speech recognition could get you into a LOT of trouble. The use of “####” makes a lot of sense, firstly no offensive word is sent, and secondly you’ll see the error (the ‘#’ character stands out in text) and have a chance to correct it. If you mean to swear then the ‘#’s are enough to indicate to most people that was your intention. Seems like the ONLY option they could have taken.

Now can you tell me you’ve never either misspoken and used a swear word (often without even being aware of it) or misheard a word and thought it was profanity? Spoken language has this problem, technology or not. I don’t see the restriction can ever be relaxed. Unless you want something like Microsoft’s “Clippy” asking: “It sounds like you swearing like a sailor, do you want any help with that?” (I can only imagine the response, but that’s a lot of hash-marks)

Posted by Jeremy-Chappell | Report as abusive

Sounds like the Stallone movie “Demolition Man” where Stallone is brought back to life in the future and any foul language will cost you credits. Be Well!

Posted by rk808 | Report as abusive

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