Google I/O: The end of search as we know it?


TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Laurence Benhamou FILES - Picture taken 16 November 2005 shows Google bags at the opening of the GooglePlex, their new London office. (John D. McHugh/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Google said Wednesday that it is expanding its voice search capabilities and other features of its core product that it hopes could fundamentally change the way the people look things up on its search engine.

The features the company announced at its annual developers conference seemed more incremental than revolutionary, but Google senior vice president Amit Singhal said that he hopes that some of the technology introduced today will lead to the “end of search as we know it.”

The key to that, Singhal said, lies in new voice search features announced today which aim to combine the breadth of Google search with more advanced voice recognition technology. An excited Singhal told his audience that these additions make Google more like the the voice-activated computer from “Star Trek” — piece of tech he’s always wanted to make himself.

“It will change how you and I experience this beautiful journey that we call life,” Singhal said.

He said that Google’s search engine, in the future, will “answer, converse and anticipate” — his way of saying that the company’s core product will eventually respond better to naturally phrased questions.

For example, if a user poses a question to Google by asking, “What’s the nearest pizza place?” they can then follow up that query with others such as “When does it close?” and “What’s its phone number?”

Singhal said that he also hopes Google Search will be able to guess what information users need the most and provide it for them easily. This line of development is in the vein of its current Google Now service, which pulls information from across Google services to act as a personal assistant of sorts by offering information on users’ commutes, appointments and news from their favorite sources in the same place.

In a demonstration, Google Vice President Joanna Wright asked Google Search to send an e-mail to a friend using only the person’s first name, which the program was able to do. That’s similar to what Apple’s offered on the iPhone with its Siri program — which sets up a new and interesting front for that rivalry.

Related stories:

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Google CEO Larry Page says he suffers from vocal cord paralysis

Google I/O: Google Music All Access takes on online music space

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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