Baidu To Extend And Introduce New Services Including Cortana-Like Voice Search

During the Lenovo Tech World keynote, Baidu's CEO and co-founder, Robin Li, came on stage to demonstrate services under development that will significantly extend the company's search, translation, and map services.

The first service demonstrated was a translation service, and Li used an example of trying to order food in a Korean restaurant. He used a smartphone to take a picture of a Korean menu, and the translation was shown over the top in Chinese. Li was then able to select an option in the picture, and have the phone read the original Korean language to the waiter to place an order.

Unfortunately, when it came to the vocal demonstration, there were some difficulties. Li asked the Korean waiter in Chinese what the restaurant's specialty was, and it translated his request correctly, according to the waiter. However, when the waiter replied, the service did not correctly translate the Korean into Chinese. Three different attempts to translate unfortunately were all unsuccessful.

The second service demonstrated was probably the most impressive new feature Baidu is adding to its search engine. You can speak to the search engine similarly to Microsoft's Cortana or Apple's Siri. The intuitive service will allow users to ask more natural questions to the system and get results, as opposed to just searching for a few key words. The demonstration included asking directions of the service, as well as asking questions such as, "What color is that stop sign?"

The final service demonstrated is currently being used to restore historic monuments in Kathmandu, which were destroyed during an earthquake. By examining millions of user-uploaded photos from before the earthquake, Baidu is able to piece together a computer rendered 3D model of the monuments before rebuilding them. This effort to restore the monuments has so far been successful and has inspired Baidu to extend the project to other monuments around the world.

It's the largest Chinese search engine, but Baidu does not have a large following in most countries around the world despite efforts to grow and expand into new markets. Though these new services will mostly impact the Chinese, improving the translation and maps services seems essential to a well-rounded search engine. That alone won't be enough to significantly grow Baidu in other countries, but the more intuitive voice search options may help attract new users.

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Michael Justin Allen Sexton is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers hardware component news, specializing in CPUs and motherboards.