A surprising name may be raising the bar in voice recognition technology.

The Next Web is reporting that Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) is playing an important role in today's Chinese launch of the Lenovo A586 smartphone.

The language research center that Baidu opened in Singapore this summer helped develop and enhance the speaker verification technology that sets the handset apart from other smartphones.

When investors think about voice recognition, they probably gravitate to Nuance Communications (NASDAQ:NUAN) and perhaps even Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL).

Nuance was relying largely on automated telephone banks to apply its technology a few years ago. We've all shouted "customer service" to a voice-recognition automaton on the other end of the line before. However, Nuance has been able to expand its role as the demand for electronics that can understand fluid verbal commands is intensifying.

Apple's Siri turned heads last year. It may be more of a novelty in its early incarnation, but the potential is significant.

Baidu isn't there yet. Allowing smartphone owners to unlock their devices by talking is only the beginning.

"Baidu is aiming on developing broader linguistic technologies that will increase its revenues by paving the way to develop new localized services," The Next Web writes, and that's tantalizing.

Investors have left Baidu for dead since Qihoo 360 (UNKNOWN:QIHU.DL) began gaining market share with its new search platform at Baidu's expense. China's leading search engine operator has seen its stock fall back into the double digits.

The technologies being crafted in a research lab far from China's home turf won't pay off right away, but it's one more reason to recognize that Baidu is gradually becoming more than just a Chinese search engine.

It has global pursuits. It has bar-raising interest. And -- thanks to the speaker verification technology in the new Lenovo smartphone -- it also wants to be heard.

Betting on China
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Baidu. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Baidu, and Nuance Communications. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.