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.
Try 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.