Building the search engine of the future, one baby step at a time

August 9, 2012

In Star Trek, a computer could answer any question, instantly. “Today, we’re closer to that dream than I ever thought possible during my working life — and here are some of the latest steps we’re taking today to make search even more intelligent, says SVP Google Search Amit Singhal on the Google Official Blog

1. Understanding the world

(Credit: Google)

In May Goolge launched the Knowledge Graph, a database of more than 500 million real-world people, places and things with 3.5 billion attributes and connections among them. “The feedback has been phenomenally positive and we want to extend this feature to people outside the U.S.

“So starting today, you’ll see Knowledge Graph results across every English-speaking country in the world,” Singhal said. “If you’re in Australia and search for [chiefs], you’ll get the rugby team — its players, results and history.

“We’ll also use this intelligence to help you find the right result more quickly when your search may have different meanings. For example, if you search for [rio], you might be interested in the Brazilian city, the recent animated movie or the casino in Vegas. Thanks to the Knowledge Graph, we can now give you these different suggestions of real-world entities in the search box as you type.

“Finally, the best answer to your question is not always a single entity, but a list or group of connected things. It’s quite challenging to pull these lists automatically from the web.

“But we’re now beginning to do just that. So when you search for [california lighthouses], [hurricanes in 2008] or [famous female astronomers], we’ll show you a list of these things across the top of the page.” (Not yet available everywhere.)

“And by combining our Knowledge Graph with the collective wisdom of the web, we can even provide more subjective lists like [best action movies of the 2000s] or [things to do in paris]. If you click on an item, you can then explore the result more deeply on the web.”

2. Putting your info at your fingertips

Sometimes the best answer to your question isn’t available on the public web — it may be contained somewhere else, such as in your email. Starting today, Goolge is opening up a limited trial where you can sign up to get information from your Gmail right from the search box.

For example, if you search for [my flights] we will organize flight confirmation emails for any upcoming trips in a beautifully easy-to-read way right on the search results page.

3. Understanding your intent

Often the most natural way to ask a question is by asking aloud. So Google has combined its speech recognition expertise, understanding of language and the Knowledge Graph so that Voice Search can better interpret your questions and sometimes speak the answers back as full sentences.

“This has been available on Android for a few weeks and people love it. It’ll soon be available on your iPhone or iPad (iOS version 4.2+).”

You just need to tap the microphone icon and ask your question, the same way you’d ask a friend. For example, ask “What movies are playing this weekend?” and you’ll see your words streamed back to you quickly as you speak. Then Google will show you a list of the latest movies in theaters near you, with schedules and even trailers.