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.



    Star trek's computer is just around the corner. It's a pity Gene Roddenberry's wife, Majel Barrett, isn't still around so they could use her voice. Although... I suppose they could cobble together something from all those shows she did..! :)

    Last edited 16/05/13 8:50 am

      As long as you don't mind the occasional warning of a warp core breach ;)

        I would love if my phone randomly once per week shouted out "WARP CORE BREACH"

      I think you're slightly misinformed there - Majel Barrett-Roddenberry was Gene Roddenberry's second wife ;)

      True, although Majel Barrett was his wife :).

      I think you mean wife, Majel Barrett was Gene's wife. They had a Son together.

    So when are these changes available to us? I am particularly interested in the Google Now updates.

    I'm still not convinced that the next step in searches (or computer control) is through voice command. I prefer to type down searches or commands like how you do in Windows 7 or 8, with the exception of doing stuff while I'm driving (where I'm prohibited by law from interacting with the phone in methods other than by voice).

    Also I wouldn't want to have to say "set me up with a doctor's appointment for that weird growth on my back" or "find me the nearest dealer" in public.

      I agree. I've never been a massive fan of voice search in public. There's nothing wrong with coming home and saying "turn on the lights and the TV" but yelling random stuff out in noisy public places is weird. Same goes for using it in a quite office. "OK Google, find me that cute picture of a cat playing a guitar".....

        No matter how intelligent the software gets, voice recognition will never be widely used until the day that they also bundle with it a personal Cone Of Silence. I can't believe that the Apples & Googles of the world can't see that.

    Putting my tin foil hat on.


    Always on voice activation is the push this is dangerous as with Siri you have to be always connected to a server so all your searches will be stored for two years and while Google has been decently forward about the number of requests by government for our info.

    This would mean they could request any conversation you had within listening distance of your phone for 2 years previous.

    This tech is going to make your life easier but there are ramifications.

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