Google Finds Ways to Search Faster and Without Typing


google-gmailHow fast is fast when talking about search? Google thinks it can be even faster – and easier – and one way is by eliminating typing altogether, at least in some cases.

Google users will be able to search by talking to a computer or dropping an image in the search box, the company said Tuesday at Inside Search, an event in San Francisco. Google will also pre-load the Web pages it predicts users are most likely to click to save two to five seconds during a search.

“Search is at the core of our business,” said Alan Eustace, senior vice president of knowledge at Google. “The investment levels are continuing and increasing.”

His title – head of knowledge, not search – is new after a reorganization directed by Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, and reflects a shift in focus at the company.

“The reason I think Larry both created the title of knowledge and also put me in this position is that his view of search is just much broader than just a query or finding a page somewhere,” Mr. Eustace said. “His view is Google should be much better at helping people understand the world, and he thought search was just too narrow.”

Google has offered voice search on mobile phones, but now users of Google’s Chrome browser will also be able to speak search queries to their computers. At the event, for example, Google demonstrated that the search engine understands the difference between Worcester, Mass., and Wooster College, words that sound the same but are spelled differently.

Google users will also be able to search by image, if they can’t remember where they were in a vacation photo or don’t know which country a flag belongs to, for instance. They can paste the Web address of an image, upload a photo from their desktops, drag and drop an image into the search box or use Chrome or Firefox extensions.

Google analyzes the fundamental features of the image, like lines and shapes, and matches it with results in its database of images. That means that it will likely recognize the Empire State Building but not someone’s home, for instance. It will not use face recognition except when the picture is of a celebrity and already exists on the public Web.

Google also introduced Instant Pages, which pre-loads likely search results so that when someone clicks on a Web page, it loads a few seconds faster than it used to.

“All this time goes back to humanity for them to go back to their quest for knowledge and search some more,” said Amit Singhal, a Google fellow who leads search engineering.

Instant Pages will be available this week in the beta version of Chrome, and the programming code is available so other browsers can incorporate it, Mr. Singhal said.

Google also announced a few small updates to mobile search, which has been growing rapidly, particularly during lunch hour, evenings and weekends, when people are away from their computers, as we have written about. The updates include the ability to do local searches, like for restaurants, from the homepage of the mobile search box and to see the locations change on the map as users scroll through results.

{The New York Times/ Newscenter}