back to article Google's Siri-a-like to be named 'Majel' after Trek actress

Google are working on a voice-recognising Siri-beater say the blogs, and it's going to be called Majel. Google phones have had voice control for donkey's years but the Majel app will be better than the old stuff says a Google insider quoted on AndroidandMe. According to blog's unnamed source, the new app will sauce up Google's …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Will it be in the voice of Majel? If so most of the trekkies in the world will probably want it.

    1. APA

      Unlikely. She died during post-production of the last Star Trek film (the with with Silas as Spock)

      1. Anonymous Cowerd


        (or Gabriel Gray)

      2. Basic


        Her voice was fantastic for the computer - she had just the right balance.

        Looks like it'll have to be Ellen McLain (GLaDOS)

      3. steogede


        >> Unlikely. She died during post-production of the last Star Trek film...

        Would that be an obstacle for the almighty Google?

    2. MacGyver

      Still not impossible...

      I'm not the biggest Trekkie but, it would be cool if someone took her collected voice-over work and broke it down into the basic phoneme elements, balanced them all, and then used them with a nice TTS engine. If for no other reason than to preserve her Star Trek work for posterity.

      I wouldn't mind the idea of living forever if only in voice.

  2. Ralph B

    Never Change A Winning Formula

    Well, if choosing a weird name worked so well for Google with Orkut versus Facebook, then it's bound to work again with Majel versus Siri, eh?

    Seriously though, Google should just dig out some of their small change, buy, and call the voice thing "Jeeves".

    1. HMB


      Google voice recognition is.... well, see for yourself.


      "Google voice recognition is so chronically bad that it's not worth bothering with if you can try a few times and edit out the mistakes"

      Recognised on my android phone as:

      "Google voice recognition for chronically bad it's not worth living with you can try a few times in the state"

      That's not bad as far as Google voice recognition goes either. The other day it told a friend of mine that I wanted him to listen to sex. The original text message was completely work safe and just a status update on my journey.

      The shit that comes out of the back of a horse is more practical and useful than the stuff Google thinks I said. (I'm well spoken without any real regional tone to my voice)

    2. hitmouse

      Google not the first

      Microsoft's Natural Language Group had a command and control system codenamed Majel over a decade ago. Whether or not it's the same people involved at Google, it's still kinda an obvious name.

    3. RISC OS

      Yeah, siri is really

      a normal sounding name...

      Lets face it every one knows that all these nerds who make software name there stuff after there crushes... obviously someone at google loves Nurse chapel...

      As mr t says "I pity the fool who decided to name their piece of coding Beryl"... the dude was obviously into OAPs or something.

  3. Manta Bloke

    So google are trying to insert Alfred into Majel?

    see icon :)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Hope Google Pay Majel to actually do the voice

    I can't be the only person who would gladly ditch my iPhone for Android if Google actually paid Majel Barrett to do the voice for this. I can think of nothing more satisfying than hearding Majel Barrett's dulcet computer voice reply to me when I say "Computer......"

    1. Stewart Atkins

      I believe (according to IMDB at least) that Majel Barrett died about 3 years ago, although perhaps Google could use audio from existing sources to pull it off, who knows.

      1. Homer 1

        Pull it off

        I sometimes use video from existing sources to pull it off, but that's another topic entirely...

      2. Jordan 1

        A company (CereProc) was doing something similar for Roger Ebert, who is still alive if somewhat toothless. It's probably quite possible.

      3. Si 1

        Sadly she died from cancer a few years ago. She did manage to record one last performance as the voice of the computer in JJ Abrams new Trek film though, which was a nice send off as she was the voice of the computer in just about every version of Star Trek except Enterprise (which didn't have a talking computer).

    2. Graham Marsden

      Not without...

      ... a ouija board!

  5. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Has anybody spotted whether Apple have filed any patents with regard to controlling phone functions using voice commands?

    I'm certain that if they have, they should be invalid, but we all know the US patent system.

    I think that 'Majel' is great as a name for this type of application, especially if they can get a sound-alike to do the voice. Anybody produced an LCARS theme for Android yet?

    Interesting aside, Majel Barret (as she was then) had a recurring role in ST:OS as Nurse Chapel, as well as being the voice of the computer on board Federation ships circa NCC1701D.

    1. Arctic fox

      @Peter Gathercole: An interesting aside?

      Pardon? We read in the article as well:

      "The name Majel comes from Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, the actress best known as the voice of the Federation Computer from Star Trek."

      Best known as?

      For those of us who remember when Star Trek was first broadcast by the BBC in (if memory serves) '68 Majel Barret is *always* Nurse Chapel first and foremost. That she contributed much more afterwards is something we of course honour her for. Majel Barett was a great lady - let us not rob her of the kudos for one of the roles in the classic series that are remembered by many of us with *great* affection.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        @Artic fox

        Yeah, what I wrote could be read as me repeating what was in the article, but the aside was the Nurse Chapel bit, which all Trekers should already know, but many others won't. It's amazing how the lag between posting and the post appearing can make it look you've not read all of the comments.

        The thing is that ST:TOS was made about 45 years ago (it took a few years to reach the UK), which is before many of the commenters here were born. As Next Generation, Deep Space 9 and Voyager are much later series, with more episodes, and have been syndicated much more than the original series, and the voice of the computer appeared in almost every episode, I would say that she was much better known as the voice of the computer than Nurse Chapel.

        I understand your sentiment, though.

    2. Dave Walker

      And as Capt. Piccard's romantic foil

      Lwaxana Troi !!!

      <for the flames of love of course>

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up


        The fact that I wanted to cringe and look away from the TV every time appeared on screen, was a credit to her performances, rather than the other way around.

        Having seen my wife act a fair few times, I have to think that it must have a fun-as-hell role to do, too. My wife, naturally, recently played a battered woman whose husband holds a knife to her throat - her 'husband' was supposed to actually keep the knife a fair distance away (low budget = real knife) but ended up actually holding it against her throat. And she finished the scene. That - *not* quite as fun to do.

        The other fun bit was when she was hired to gradually begin pretending to be a monkey during a swank Darwin's Birthday Party at a local science museum, along with another couple of people. This eventually led into their performing a play about monkeys trying to produce Shakespeare on typewriters, but the initial transition from normal dinner guest to squawking, loping, crazy chimp was just hilarious - particularly during the beginning, when people tried to pretend nothing was happening so as to be polite.

        The best part was seeing her (at this point you should know that she's a picky eater, and tends to dislike food touching different food on her plate) grab a banana from a tray, shriek over to an area between a bunch of people, and take an enormous bite off the end of the banana, peel and all. She'd normally be revolted and turn green if this was suggested, but as it was, she chomped it down with gusto, as if it were the most satisfying thing ever.

        That's acting for ya.

        Majel's work was much harder than stomaching a big slug of banana peel (Has it been washed? Who knows!) despite the former being more obviously difficult (No jokes about having had plenty of practice, and all that; we're all thinking it anyway). And Majel did some damned good work. in a time when women were still usually regarded as being dumb, foolish, impulsive, and generally one step above kitchen appliances.

        If they can make a voice synth that actually sounds like Majel, I'm there. It's about the only time I wouldn't feel like an idiot talking to a computer. Obviously, though, it would have to respond to my saying, "Computer!", and make a little sound, to start a command. Anything else will be a disappointment.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Lwaxana Troi"

        <comicBookGuy>Worst Character Ever!</comicBookGuy>

    3. Steven Roper
      Thumb Up

      @Peter Gathercole

      "Anybody produced an LCARS theme for Android yet?"

      Yes, it's called BCARS and it's in the Android marketplace. Works well too!

  6. Shaun 2

    Is this just for ICS, or will older phones get it?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They are using her name....

    They are using her name, but will they use her voice? I'd guess they could probably get enough plain sampled voice for many responses, and possibly enough to drive a text to speech engine.

    Hell, if they'd just offer a Majel TTS engine plugin for Android phones for US$0.99, they'd STILL make a mint on the downloads.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh really?

    “I don’t believe that your phone should be an assistant,” “Your phone is a tool for communicating. You shouldn’t be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone.” - 10/19/11 Andy Rubin, Android chief and SVP of Mobile at Google

    I see Andy Rubin is swallowing his brain farts, again.

  9. Robert E A Harvey


    If it speaks with her voice, I'm sold.

    A real start trek talking computer? How could I resist?

  10. peyton?

    Hopefully it'll go both ways

    The voice that speaks to you, for things like Google's navigation service, is crap.

    I always got a kick when Lwaxana talks to the computer on Star Trek. Probably funny even for an actress to say "Excuse me dear" when talking to oneself.

    1. Darryl

      Go both ways??

      You mean like you'll have the option of using George Takei's voice?

  11. Ru

    Because all Google's "me, too!" projects have been successful

    I am continually startled by Google's inability to innovate. There's clearly something rotten in their corporate culture that's preventing them from accomplishing anything that's very far removed from their core competencies. Hell, even their external "me, too!" acquisitions have generally been a bit crap.

    They've got so much power and money and influence and yet they're always playing catch-up.

    1. Owen Carter

      I agree they fare pretty poorly on 'me, too' projects; especially where the IP space is already owned by others (they are not alone in this of course); but:

      "I am continually startled by Google's inability to innovate"

      I dont agree; it';s when they are making stuff up from scratch; or re-imagining existing tech that they do their best work. And of course their roots are a highly innovative ranking system for web searches; adding a bunch of innovative ideas; pagerank; minimalist design, text advertising automatically keyed to user inputs; to an existing concept (web search).

      1. Ru

        You've mentioned a couple of truly game changing things that they'd come up with a good ten years ago.

        They've managed precious little since. They've purchased some good tech and given it to the rest of us... gmail was a breath of fresh air, and google maps was an amazing bit of software but they were not 'me, too!'s and they were not Google's innovations. Android and Dalvik are 'me, too!'s that they purchased and have gone on to be successful, but I don't think they're quite relevant because any suitable language and mobile OS that google threw their weight behind would have worked adequately (its the user experience that matters, after all, followed perhaps my developer experience).

        All those hours a week their staff can spend on their own projects seem to come to nothing. Their working environment is apparently great for employee morale, but it seems to have failed to foster creativity.

        Facebook seems much the same, to be fair. A multibillion dollar web 2.0 one trick pony.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Maps? Street View? Vastly improved image search? Do math in the search bar? *Reverse* image search? Traffic view? TCP over Sewer?

      I don't know if you recall, but when Maps came out, everything else was in a tiny window and forced you to push side buttons to scroll in huge amounts. Now, of course, most things don't do that - but they still have lousy colors, labeling, sizing of stuff, etc. Street View is silently updated on a fairly regular basis.

      The fact that they release things that get shot down is a *positive* indicator of innovation, not a *negative* one. They're -trying- things.

      The fact is that it's getting harder and harder to come up with whiz-bang new stuff for the internets. The low-hanging fruit (search, social, mapping, buy-every-product-in-the-world-for-next-to-no-money-and-have-funny-reviews) have been grabbed. Expecting the pace of innovation to remain the same is unrealistic.

      That Google is willing to take risks on things like Wave suggests to me that they're more concerned with finding fruit nobody's noticed than with people making fun of them for walking around the forest poking at branches.

      Saying that Google is 'Me, too!' is like complaining that Microsoft isn't throwing its weight around enough.

  12. Sean Baggaley 1

    Peter Tuddenham > Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. So there!

    "Google phones have had voice control for donkey's years"

    And every other mobile phone OS on the planet has had it for even longer. Basic voice commands certainly predate both iOS and Android. They just aren't very good. Still, nice to see Google had their photocopiers on standby once again when the 4S was announced to the world.


    Also: how come there's only that _one_ computer voice is available throughout the _entire_ Federation? I bet there's only one approved desktop wallpaper for their PADDs too.

    1. BoldMan
      Thumb Up


      I'll take Orac being sarcastic back at me over Majel "I married the producer so include me in everything" barrett anyday!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or John Leeson

      Or John Leeson. Really, the BBC ought to do a multipack of voices:

      John Leeson as K-9

      Peter Tuddenham as ORAC and Zen (screw Slave - that was bad).

      (Can't do Roy Skelton, unfortunately - but with that much ring modulation just about anybody can do a good Dalek).

      1. stucs201

        No, not Daleks

        Gave you a thumbs up for the K-9 bit, K-9 is a computer on wheels. Daleks though are cyborgs and don't count.

        Definately agree a selection of voices/personalities would be nice though. HAL would be an obvious choice. Moving away from TV/Films GlaDOS would be great too. I don't think I could stand the one from the Heart Of Gold (Eddie) though.

  13. auburnman

    If only she were still around to do the voice. I hope Google boldly go and find a soundalike so I can pretend I'm in Star Trek without all the dressing up.

  14. Owen Carter

    But how will it make eye contact?

    On this topic I think todays Dilbert is eerily prophetic;

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Geordies get overlooked with these apps

    The only Geordie Majel will know of wore a visor...

    Yellow, Film, Going, Don't - all words added to my test list when someone tells me they have found a great voice recognition app.

    And I have a weak accent!!

    There was an XBox game (forget what it was called) where 1/2 the control was voice recognition, "Yellow team left" etc. After 10 mins of frustration (and trying my best American accents!) I packed it back up.

  16. BenR

    ... some other unneeded service that'll sip into your bundled data allowance.

  17. Roger Greenwood

    "donkey's years"

    I wonder how many years a donkey actually has? Why not mule, burro or ass years? Where are the vulture standards when you need them?

    1. Homer 1

      Re: "donkey's years"

      The etymology is rhyming slang: donkey's ears = years, but if you're looking for a number, a donkey called Lively Laddie lived to 62, apparently.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Don't believe everything you read on-line!

        1. Epobirs

          What about things read on-curve?

  18. GeorgeTuk


    When are you going to do something original?

    Its been years now.

    1. MrEee
      Thumb Up


      Oh please, they showed the world how a touch-screen interface should work on smartphones and then tablets, and now they're rolling out voice control that works better than the joke that has been out there for over a decade.

      Sorry, I thought you were talking about Apple. Yeah, shocking to see a company like Google that's all about innovation copy this as well, huh? The amazing bit is that people will still explain how Google already had this, tablets, touch, etc. Riiiiiight.

  19. TwistUrCapBack

    will it make ??

    Tea - Earl Gray - Hot

    1. Arthur Jackson

      Earl Grey

  20. g e


    Nice touch.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    " allow Android to catch up with Apple"

    I call into question your credability!

    Do you always report Bollox?

  22. Darryl

    As long as they give me the option to turn it off

    I don't want to join the ranks of people looking ridiculous walking around chatting with their phones. (as opposed to chatting ON their phones)

  23. CyberCipher


    You can't be Siri-ous.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eat up Martha.

  25. Lucas 1

    Best known as the voice on the Federation Computer?

    I think the overwhelming number of Star Trek aficionados would remember her as Nurse Christine Chapel. I certainly do.

  26. Dr Dan Holdsworth

    I think they're missing a trick here

    I reckon that "Baldrick" would do much better as a voice for a rather dim but tries to be helpful servant. Plus, of course, it'd annoy the hell out of a certain Tony Robinson...

    1. Rameses Niblick the Third (KKWWMT)
      Thumb Up


      I hope that, like Apple, they do a US and UK version. I would happily get this if it was called Holly and was voiced by Norman Lovett

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not even slightly curranty

        @Rameses : cracking idea to have Norman - or even Hattie - do the UK version. Sadly, my faith in voice recognition is such that I suspect "Majel" will turn out to be as much use as Talkie Toaster...

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Must be a very young donkey

    ... Just a wee nipper at the young old age of 3.

  28. BinaryFu

    I would much rather...

    hear Michael Dorn growling from my Android device...especially with a Kingon language pack...

    *removes nerd glasses to clean the lenses*

  29. Mark Hewitt

    And for a change of pace...

    You could always get Steven Wright, especially when you're playing music. >:)

  30. Elf

    You are somewhat in error ...

    Best known as "The computer"? Try "Nurse Christine Chapel"

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What would be really cool of course......,

    Integrate the "voice" into the Android system and get verbal system status updates....

    I'm particularly thinking along the lines of that wonderfully calm detached voice saying something like "Warning! internal battery temperature approaching critical levels, initiating emergency separation in 5 seconds...."

  32. Anonymous Coward

    A bit late to this, but - best voice possible: "Emergency. There's an emergency going on."

    Red Dwarf for the win.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They should name it...

    Ilya. Lt. Ilya, if anyone recalls.

    A human playing a robot... I thought it was her. The most beautiful bald woman I've ever seen. No wait, scratch that, she was more beautiful than a lot of women WITH hair.


  34. dssf

    WHICH Alfred?

    Alfred Pennyworth, or Alfred E. Neuman, hehehe

  35. Tom 35

    If they are copying Apple

    Will they limit it so it will only be available on a new model phone?

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