Google has rolled out some changes to its conversational search engine that adds some smart new features.
“Ah, fall. It’s a time for apple cider, crunchy colored leaves and cozy sweaters (unless you’re here in California),” Google senior engineer for conversational search Pravir Gupta wrote on the company’s Inside Search blog. “It’s also the start of a busy time of year for most people— with kids to drop off at school, Halloween costumes to sew and holiday travels to plan. This year, Google can make your season a little less hectic. A few new updates to the Google app on your phone make it easier to plan anything—whether it’s an after-work happy hour or a romantic weekend to get a break from it all.”
Google has been making a big promotional push for its conversational search, airing TV commercials showing people making voice queries on mobile devices.
Google’s conversational search is Google’s answer to Apple’s Siri, and it features some surprisingly sophisticated queries.
For example, a user planning a trip can say, “Ok Google, show me restaurants near my hotel.” Gupta wrote that users wouldn’t need to remember the name of the hotel as long as they had booking confirmations in their Gmail accounts.
After finding a restaurant, the user can say something like: “Ok Google, make a reservation there for 7 p.m.” The search is integrated with OpenTable, so Google will show slots for available reservations. They can also search for bars nearby for after the meal.
It can also remind users of things like the deadline to return rental cars and times to catch airline flights.
The update actually pays attention to the user’s context rather than just accepting blind queries. Although these new features are useful, there are still some privacy issues. Some people might not want to keep Google apprised of their movements, since the search giant might not be the only one tracking them after the revelation of the extent of the NSA’s data collection activities.
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