Google's Larry Page Admits "Speech Recognition is Not Very Good" Right Now

By Gary Cutlack on at

Larry Page, Google's co-founder and CEO, gave a long interview at the TED2014 conference, where he talked about search stuff, voice stuff, and suggested that sharing anonymous medical data could save a staggering 100,000 lives a year around the world if we could all stop being so stressed about our privacy.

As for the vast number of NSA revelations we've seen recently, Page claimed Google had no idea what the US surveillance teams were up to, saying: "It is disappointing that the government secretly did this stuff and didn't tell us about it. It is not possible to have a democracy if we have to protect our users from the government. The government has done itself a tremendous disservice and we need to have a debate about it."

The NSA fuss has thrown people into security lockdown, says Page, which could damage the planet's ability to develop cool new stuff. "We are not thinking about the tremendous good that can come with sharing information with the right people in the right ways," Page said, before suggesting that sharing our anonymised health data "could save 100,000 lives this year."

As for the thorny subject of voice recognition and how Google appears to see it as the future even though the public doesn't seem to like it, Page sort of accidentally agreed with the voice control detractors, saying: "I was looking at search and trying to understand how to make computers less clunky and also thinking about how speech recognition is not very good." That's one of the reasons Google bought UK learning company DeepMind.

And Larry even made a joke. Describing Google's own machine learning project that's been using YouTube to teach computers how humans think and work, Page said of the project: "It has learnt what cats are." [BBC]