Goog411 Monkey I’m not sure how many of you have used the free GOOG-411 service before, but I’ve used it over a dozen times since its release. The speed and accuracy of the automated system is rather astounding, and the fact that you don’t have to pay $1.25 just to get a phone number is what really catches people’s attention.

Have you ever thought to yourself “how is Google benefiting from offering the service for free?” You may think that they are planing some sort of advertising system, but as it turns out Google themselves are actually skeptical about its profitability. Their real investment for the system is in the speech-to-text model, where they essentially turn all of the GOOG-411 users into lab monkeys:

Whether or not free-411 is a profitable business unto itself is yet to be seen. I myself am somewhat skeptical. The reason we really did it is because we need to build a great speech-to-text model … that we can use for all kinds of different things, including video search.

The speech recognition experts that we have say: If you want us to build a really robust speech model, we need a lot of phonemes, which is a syllable as spoken by a particular voice with a particular intonation. So we need a lot of people talking, saying things so that we can ultimately train off of that. … So 1-800-GOOG-411 is about that: Getting a bunch of different speech samples so that when you call up or we’re trying to get the voice out of video, we can do it with high accuracy.

That snippet was yanked from an InfoWorld interview with Google’s Marissa Mayer. As you can see the data that they are able to collect should play a huge roll in speech-to-text conversion for videos on YouTube. With that they would not only be better at filtering out copyrighted content, but they would also be able to show ads related to the content of the video.

So now that you know the true purpose behind GOOG-411, do you mind being a lab monkey?

InfoWorld Interview [via Google Blogoscoped]