Google’s Voice Search tool for Android lets you ask Google all sorts of questions: you can check the time, weather forecast, movie showtimes, and more.
But the makers of the SoundHound app (which uses audio recognition to tell you what song is playing nearby) think there’s room for a voice search app that can do even more.
They’re working on a new app called Hound which seems to be faster, more versatile, and better able to understand a variety of requests than Google Voice Search.
You can download a beta version of the Hound for free from the Google Play Store, but you won’t be able to use it until you get an invite (which you can request from within the app).
So what can you use Hound for? You can ask it for directions, weather forecasts, web searches, video searches, news searches, flight status, and hotel search and booking just to name a few things.
What’s more impressive is that you can ask complicated, multi-part questions. For instance, you can ask the app to “show me nearby restaurants, excluding pizza places” or ask what time it is in Berlin when it’s noon in New York. Want to know the population of the capital of Japan? Hound will figure out that you mean Tokyo and then tell you how many people live there.
Hound has put out a demo video showing some complex questions including this crazy one: What is the population on capitol for Japan and China and their areas in square miles and square kilometers and also tell me how many people live in India and what is the area code for Germany, France and Italy?”
It took Hound virtually no time to generate answers to all of those questions, but it took about 30 seconds to read them all out loud.
Update: After trying Hound for myself (see the video above), it’s not quite as quick as the demo video below suggests and it sometimes gets a request wrong. But it’s still a pretty powerful alternative to Google’s Voice Search.
The video also shows a mortgage calculator. You can ask it what the mortgage is for a home with a certain value, and Hound will ask you what the down payment is, what the mortgage payment is, and what the interest rate is… and then it’ll calculate the monthly payments.
Want to change the interest rate? You can adjust the query without repeating the whole thing. Just ask a follow-up question like “what if the interest rate is 4 percent?”
While Hound won’t be able to integrate as tightly with your phone’s operating system as Google Voice Search, SoundHound says the app does let you initiate phone calls, set alarms and timers, and use your voice to perform some other actions beyond simple web searches.
SoundHound is also introducing Houndify, a developer tool that will let app makers integrated voice features with their software.