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June 14, 2011
Google Enhances Desktop Search
Google announced several enhancements to search today at an Inside Search event held in San Francisco. These are summarized at Google's Inside Search Blog post published earlier this morning. Voice search will now be available from the desktop. There will be a microphone icon in the search box that activates voice search with a click. A physical microphone connected to the computer takes the input and displays results. Google points to long queries or those with hard to spell (correctly, at least) terms as selling points for the technology. Not mentioned is how much fun it would be to annoy others in a shared office by talking at the computer. The feature is available in the Chrome browser starting with version 11. The current version is 12. Presenters said Google would like to see the same ability in other browsers.
Search by Image is another feature that becomes available on the desktop. Searchers will now be able to drag an image to the search box at images.google.com. The results will consist of similar images, descriptions of the content of the image, copies of the same image at different resolutions, and web pages that contain that image or similar images. Images can come from the computer's hard drive or from the web. Google indicated at the presentation that this technology would not include facial recognition features. Private investigators and other interested will still have to look to Facebook for that type of utility. Image search extensions for Chrome and Firefox will become available in the next few days.
The next feature is called Instant Pages. Essentially, instead of loading search results from a query, Google will actually load the page from the result that it believes the searcher would reliably click, cutting out that step. This only works when Google has reason to believe the search result is predictable, such as a destination or a specific item on the web. If I search for the San Francisco Chronicle, the main page from sfgate.com would appear instead of appearing in a list of results. If I searched for something more open-ended, say, European merger control policy statements, the traditional search list should appear. And I thought Bing was the decision engine. I assume Google gets some of that intuition by tracking my search habits, not that Google, Bing, or the others do not do that anyway. The feature is one that can be turned on or off, depending on how helpful or annoying it can seem to individuals. No word on how soon Google will advance this technology to predict if a searcher will commit a future crime and notify the authorities in advance.
This leads me to another technological development, this time involving Comcast and Skype. Both companies are announcing a partnership to bring video calling and chat to the living room via TV sets and high definition webcams. The ideas is to make the TV set more social. The example is a child's birthday party where the action can be directly shared with Grandma and Grandpa via a web connected TV set. This is in contrast to making the call from another room that interrupts and presumably diminishes the party experience. I'm sure it will be delightful until a report surfaces on the web about a bored engineer remotely turning on the webcam and capturing a frothy slice of Americana. Oops, that was really system maintenance. Sorry. In fact, why not attach a webcam to every screen in every room of the house. Wouldn't that be the most social experience of all? [MG]