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Google Toying with Autonomous Search

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Google Toying with Autonomous Search
September 29, 2010
By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor


Is a symbiotic relationship between humans and computers the key to long-lasting Google dominance? According to CEO Eric Schmidt (News - Alert), it definitely has its power and potential. In a recent eWeek report, the search engine’s chief said this relationship is actually driving Google (News - Alert) to work on autonomous search. 

This search enables users to receive search suggestions on their mobile phones without having to type queries. The mobile search function learns about the user and will make suggestions based on preferences and past experiences. 

Schmidt spoke at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco on Tuesday and highlighted that while the Google Instant predictive search technology helps shave an average of two seconds off users' queries, the next step is "autonomous search." Hmmm, for another two seconds, we might have to sit up and listen. 

An example of such a search would be the user talking down the street and receiving information about the places around her on her mobile phone without having to do anything on the phone itself. Schmidt referred to it as a serendipity engine, a new way of thinking about traditional text search where typing is not necessary. 

The CEO noted that the technology sector is moving toward the creation of an augmented version of humanity, one in which computers help people do things they are not normally good at doing on their own. At the same time, humans help computers do things they are not inherently designed to do.

According to Schmidt, Google’s search engine in the near future will be able to interpret a query such as “What is the weather like” to mean the user wants to know whether or not they need to wear a sweater or water the plants. With more information, algorithms and user permission, searches can get closer to answering the question that was actually asked.

 Industry research continues to support the assumption that users want personalized information and they are willing to share private information to make their experience more customized. Of course, Google has already had its own privacy issues, and the mere reach and size of the company may have some on alert. 

At the same time, this technology will have to be considerably advanced to actually deliver what users want. There is nothing more frustrating -- for instance -- than dealing with an Interactive Voice Response system that assumes to know what you want and get it wrong every time. The margin of error will have to be miniscule to drive rapid adoption.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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