Google (GOOG) has quietly launched a free local business 411 service using voice recognition, Google Voice Local Search. To try it, call 800-466-4411 (GOOG-411) from any phone. There’s also a Google Labs page with information about the service.
It’s been out for several weeks now, but doesn’t seem to have gotten much coverage.
I just gave it a quick spin, with mixed results. It had no trouble finding Amici’s, a pizza joint in San Jose, and the San Jose Mercury News, my former employer; it read a list of search results, and offered to dial the number for me. But it didn’t find a number for Business 2.0 in San Francisco – it couldn’t understand “Business two point oh.” I guess I can cut it some slack on that one.
It’s available in the U.S. only, in English.
Overall though, I’m pleased with the service. It’s likely to become one of the most-used apps on my phone, along with Google Maps and Gmail. (Sort of makes you wonder why Microsoft (MSFT) doesn’t do more stuff like this – especially given its recent purchase of TellMe Networks.)
The thing I like most about Google Voice Local Search is that it’s more than a 411 service. I also asked it for a dry cleaners in San Francisco, and it returned eight results. It also found all the movie theaters in and around Greencastle, Indiana, the small town where I went to college. It would be nice if I were able to search by zip code, but this service is still in its experimental stage, and I suspect Google will add that feature eventually. UPDATE: A commenter tells me you can search by zip code, which is great. Google should make this more obvious by asking “city, state or zip code?”