Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Google Search]ology

Just finished listened to the Google Webcast Search]ology and was very excited about the technology that was conveyed. While there were a number of things revealed, easily the one that made me want to jump out of my seat was Google Squared. This technology will be revealed through Google Labs later this month, but the demo looked absolutely amazing. Instead of returning results in the normal short paragraph type style that we have come to expect of Google, Google Squared will return results in a table-like format with rows and columns like a spreadsheet. Not only can the user add rows and columns, but they will be able to modify individual cells with other search results if the data present in them is not up to par with the user's expectations. (As a data fanboy, I actually let out a little yell in my empty workspace. Thankfully, no one was here to make fun of my geeky bliss.)

One of the questions asked at the end addressed the possibility of there being a danger of Google using data without actually referring searchers to the websites that the data is referencing. Marissa Mayer (who actually presented Google Squared) responded that Google wants to take the web and transform it into something that could possibly be more useful than the actual websites where the data came from, but that they would still heavily site the reference sites where the data came from thus still driving click throughs to the source site. Unfortunately, when the online question was asked as to when this would be available, Marissa responded with a nondescript "Official word is later this month." I can't wait!

Another comment made by Marissa was "We are always striving for the ideal or perfect search engine." One of the attendees picked up on this with their question: How much closer are you to this? She replied "I think search is really in its infancy. While we are proud of google there is a long way to go. ... It has awakened to me how very far away we are. ... While we are really proud of what we have done, it just shows how big the search space really is and how exploratory[?] it is." [? used to indicate that I'm not sure if that was the word used.]

Another really exciting search, while not as useful in my daily life but certainly more fun, was Google Stars. Think Google Maps but of the night sky. Sounds mildly interesting at face value until you saw how the application interacted with an Android enabled phone. Using location and position information, the user can hold the phone up to the sky and the phone knows where they are pointing. It acts like a window to the sky and displays the sky behind the phone with the stars, constellations, and names on the screen. That is fairly amazing to me. Also, users can search for particular places (in the demonstration, they searched for Gemini) and a circle with an arrow appears. The arrow tells the user where to move the phone, for example up and to the right, so that the phone is used as a finder for where the object is located in the sky. Tell me that isn't cool!

One last technology that looked not only useful but fun was the Google Wonder Wheel. This application shows a topic diagram with the main topic in the center and related topics at the end of spokes. The user can select one of the spokes to recenter the view. This looks useful in that it will help users dig into topics and find related ones much easier than previously they were able to do. Being a data visualizer, I loved the fact that it was very visually based and not just text.

I believe Udi Manbar, the first presenter, summed up the entire presentation nicely when he said this: Every five years is science fiction. ... You haven't seen nothing yet.

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