There has been some speculation about this, and rumours picked up when Microsoft announced plans to acquire TellMe. Now Google have proved the rumour mills right by going ahead and launching Google Voice Local search.
The new service is currently in beta and can be accessed from the Google Labs site. It provides toll-free voice-activated search functionality for local business listings in the USA only.
Users can call the toll free number 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-4664-411). An operator asks for the location (city and state) and then category of business or business name. Users need to just speak what they are searching for. A rather sophisticated voice recognition system then mines results.
For category searches, the first 8 results are read out. Users can be connected to the businesses for free by just saying the number of the listing. For business names, the system offers to connect the user directly or to provide address and phone number details. Results can also be sent by SMS for free.
At present, the system does not include sponsored links, and so it doesnt need to differentiate organic listings from paid.