The availability of real-time search results was one of several major announcements made by Google Inc. at a press event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., on Monday.
The announcement marks the first time any search engine has integrated the real-time Web into the results page, said Google Fellow Amit Singhal.
When users perform a Google search, a live stream of results from the Web will be contained within a box on the first page of results. To access a full page of real-time results, users can click on the “latest results” heading at the top of the box or select the “latest” link from the show options page.
Real-time search functionality will be rolling out over the next couple days.
Users unable to wait can access the feature now by visiting Google’s new Hot Topics page (which lists popular topics in real time) at google.com/trends, clicking on one of the hot topic categories and then typing their queries into the search bar provided on that page.
Google also announced new partnerships with Facebook Inc. and MySpace Inc. that will allow profile updates from public Facebook Pages and MySpace users to appear within the real-time feed. Google’s real-time results will also access Twitter and FriendFeed.
Users with Android phones or iPhones will have access to mobile versions of the real time search functions.
Google is also gearing search to mobile devices by developing new ways for users to conduct searches by voice, sight and location.
Using Google Voice Search, users can speak a query into their phone to perform a search. The feature, already available for English and Mandarin speakers, now supports Japanese. Google’s goal is to eventually support all major languages around the world, noted Vic Gundotra, vice-president of Engineering at Google.
A new Google Goggles app allows users to take a picture of an item with their smartphone and use the picture to perform an image-based search. The app is currently limited to Android phone users and now available on the Android Market.
Google Goggles will initially work “for certain object in certain categories,” such as books, paintings and buildings, as opposed to animals or plants. Gundotra pointed out future potential for this becoming a “mouse pointer for the world.”
The app includes an augmented reality component that accesses compass and GPS-based information to allow users to point their camera towards a location, rather than take a picture, to get results. It will be interesting to see where this can go, noted Steve Woods, engineering site director at Google Waterloo.
Location-based searches can be performed through Google Suggest, which customizes results based on a user’s current location. A user searching in Toronto, for example, will receive different suggestions as he or she types than a user based in Vancouver.
A new location-based search feature was also announced for Android phone users. Available within Google Mobile Maps, the feature provides a listing of establishments, including restaurants and stores, close to the user. To access the feature, users press and hold any location within a map.
Google also plans to roll out the new Near Me Now feature to iPhone and Android phone users over the next few weeks by providing a link that users can click from Google.com.
The company also plans to enhance product searches by detecting a user’s location and accessing inventory data from partner stores to determine which stores within the vicinity currently carry the product.
Modalities and media were the focus of Google’s announcements, but language and personalization are two other key elements to the “future of search,” according to Marissa Mayer, vice-president of user products and search experience at Google.
Mayer anticipates translated results will “unlock the Web” by breaking down language barriers and increased personalization may lead to results tailored to where you are located, who your friends are or what your specialization is.
Google is also focusing on its rate of progress and sees a need for a consistent rate of innovation, according to Mayer. The company has launched 33 search innovations since October 2, which is roughly one innovation every two days, she pointed out.
There are three mobile trends emerging that excite Google: Moore’s Law, increased connectivity and clouds, said Gundotra. When you combine these three things and then add mobile devices, you get something very interesting, he said.
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