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Did Google Just Try To Totally Change How Search Works?

Google might have just added a huge feature to Search. It’s trying to make it conversational.

The first big search move that Google announced today at I/O was to make it more personal, so you can search for things like “my flight to London” and get information for your upcoming flight to London. Naturally. Like Google Now already does, but for search.

More impressive, though, is Google’s push towards conversational search for PC or mobile devices, so you can just say, “OK Google, find a restaurant near my next appointment” and it’ll go off and do that. The promise of Siri finally realised. Hugely ambitious, powered by Knowledge Graph information to answer these questions.

More practically, you’d be asking for things like seafood restaurants near a neighbourhood you’re looking for, or photos near a landmark you’re interested in visiting. Or even how tall you have to be to ride a ride. Obviously, this is something we’ve been hoping for years, but never quite gotten right. There’s just too much context needed, too much advanced language recognition, too much computation. And yet that’s exactly what Google demonstrated today.

We’re still sceptical you’ll be able to use it quite like in the live stage demos, but what we saw was pretty darned impressive. At the very least, it’s startling as a proof of concept.

Google’s conversational search also works to send emails to individual contacts, even by just their first name. In one Google demo, an employee sent an email to a full contact, with a first and last name, just by the user saying “Send an email to Katie,” because it knew that’s who was meant.

Google Now has improved as well; it got some new cards, for reminders, public transit, music albums, or TV shows. All pretty great. It’s trying to anticipate what you want to know, before you remember you want to know. You can also set reminders (a new feature) for Google Now by voice for individual contacts as well.

Obviously, conversational search has a long way to go, no matter how impressive it looks in demos. But natural, conversational language is what we were promised two years ago by Apple, and we were left in the cold. It’s still something that’s tremendously enticing — who doesn’t want Tony Stark’s J.A.R.V.I.S. at their beck and call? — and this looks like it could be a huge step toward that. Jarvis, tell Pepper we might be late tonight.


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