Google I/O 2013 keynote

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Google's vision for search highlights knowledge graph, speech

Google’s Senior Vice President Amit Singhal used his time at the 2013 I/O podium to announce “the end of search as we know it.” While some of the search enhancements he announced won’t actually mark the end of search, they do point to cool new ways to interact with information.

Anticipation and answers

Google’s knowledge graph technology organizes information by its relationship to other bits of information. Google plans on kicking its knowledge graph up a notch going forward. According to Singhal, Google’s Knowledge Graph now contains more than 750 million entries and “as it grows, it becomes more powerful each day.”

For example, when I Googled the population of Poland, it anticipated I might want the population of other nearby countries and placed the population counts for Germany, Russia, and the Ukraine in the sidebar. Additionally, Google will use the data to create visual graphs with all the comparable data and trendlines—somewhat like how Wolfram Alpha organizes data.

In addition to the eight languages already featuring the knowledge graphs, Singhal announced that knowledge graphs—along with its predictive technologies—will be brought to Polish and Turkish, as well as traditional and simplified Chinese.

Google search will also incorporate questions based on past Google searches or keywords in your emails. Users who opted in for the field study already have their results show up in their Google searches, but the tech should roll out more widely soon.

Google Now, the so-called predictive arm of Google search, also received a boost Wednesday with new Cards and powerful new Reminder functionality.

Talk to me

Google already allows for conversational search through Android and iOS, as well as on desktops using Chrome. Soon you will be able to search with just voice, across all desktops and laptops running the Chrome browser, without even pushing the microphone button that already exists. Just utter “OK Google” and ask your question. Using the anticipatory knowledge graph Google will give you information based on your vocal search, utilizing “hotwords.”

”OK Google, show me things to do in Santa Cruz,” a person can say when using the new Conversational Search feature. They get back a list of attractions in the town as well nearby places Google thinks should be included.

The voice search will also understand real conversational language, so for example, if you just asked Google for information on “The White House” and then asked how long will it take to get “from here to there,” Google will understand that it will want to find directions to get you from where you are to The White House. Very pronoun friendly.

This hands-free search will be coming to Chrome and Chrome OS.

Wednesday’s search announcement marked another step toward Google being able to let people use its search technology in as natural a way as possible, “pretty much like you would ask a friend,” Singhal said. Without needing to activate the computer’s microphone, “you can sit back, relax, say, ‘Okay Google,’ ask your question, and have Google speak back the answer,” he added.

Zach Miners of IDG News Service contributed to this report.

Updated at 3:35 p.m. PT with additional comments from Amit Singhal.

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