Google, when all is said and done, is a search provider. This week it has announced three enhancements to its search engine. The upgrades include voice search for iPad/iPhone, Gmail in search and improvements to Knowledge Graph, the database it introduced in May.
Google Search On iOS
The one that everyone will be anxious to know about first is the upgrade to its voice search for iPhone and iPad. Before this has even really landed some commentators have already said they are not a bit pleased.
It seems that Google’s decision to offer this technology to iOS before making it available to those using pre-v4.1 Android devices has ruffled a few feathers, but Google claims the move was strategic and that it would look after Android users a bit later.
Understandably, Android users are annoyed; after all, Voice Search was one of the really cool features of the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean release, and those who were using lower versions of Android might have reasonably hoped that they would get the upgrades before Apple users.
Leaving aside the sulking, the Voice Search combines speech recognition expertise, understanding of language and Knowledge Graph so that Voice Search can interpret your questions. It can, in some cases, even speak the answers back in full sentences.
This will be available for iOS 4.2 soon, according to the Google blog, with Google currently working with Apple to get the app updated and out.
Gmail in Your Search Results
Another upgrade in the search space from Google, and another on that is causing consternation in some quarters is getting results from your Gmail in search. According to Google, the idea behind this is to provide search that is truly universal.
Using the normal search users can enter a query and get their normal search results. However, Google says it will also provide results containing information found in your Gmail accounts. The example Google provides is airline travel queries:
“…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…”
However, it doesn’t mean that you have to go through all your email results every time you do a search.
Google says that when a match to a query is found in your Gmail, a box on the right-hand side of the screen appears listing where and who the messages that contain the matched result comes from.
Note that this is a limited trial and you have to sign up to get the functionality.
There are a number of issues here that spring to mind. One that strikes immediately is that of privacy. Email is often a private affair so what happens, for example, in an office where people are using common computers, or if someone else is legitimately using your computer; is there a way of restricting it?
Finally, there are the upgrades to Knowledge Graph, the database which Google says contains more than 500 million real-world people, places and things with 3.5 billion attributes and connections among them.
Knowledge Graph was launched in May and provides users with clearer answers based on their search intentions by searching for keyword, but also for keywords in context .
As of this week, English-speaking users even outside the US will benefit from Knowledge Graph results.
With it, when users perform search results for specific real-world objects they will be offered a list of relevant options asking them to clarify what they are looking for specifically.
When the list comes up, the user clarifies the search, and provides specific results related to the query. It also takes into account geographical location and provides localized results.