If you remember the article Conversations with Google, you may recall it’s been predicted that the next mode of interaction with Google search will be natural language conversation where Google will be able to follow the course of the conversation and provide new results and suggestions. Well, as of this Wednesday it’s become a reality.
Google presented conversational voice search at Google I/O a week ago. It’s a kind of search designed to be more like natural language and human speech than the technically constructed search inquiries that people use daily to retrieve information. You can just click the microphone in the search box, ask your question in a natural way, and get spoken answers. Conversational voice search is not a Chrome desktop version of Google Now, even if it might look like that; it has none of the predictive answers that Google Now provides.
The conversational search feature has a natural language and semantic search integrated into it, and after the initial testing yesterday while it’s far from perfect, it presents one of those significant changes. Speaking your search into the box is not a new thing, but having a conversation with the search engine and being able to search by voice is what makes the difference in the human-computer interaction. And being able to speak a search inquiry and getting an answer read back to you is pretty impressive. The feature is similar to how the Google Search App works for the iPhone or Android.
As a test, I asked “Who invented the World Wide Web?”
The Chrome voice feature responded with correct answer, “Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau…”.
Conversational voice search does not always work right as you go further on into a conversation. Chrome didn’t follow up with voice feedback on questions “Where the World Wide Web was invented?”. Other search inquiries such as “who is Sally Ride?” include voice feedback “According to Wikipedia…” and then Chrome provides a brief synopsis.
For another test, a simple weather related inquiry, I asked, “What’s the weather like in Paris?” and then “Do I need umbrella for the weekend in Paris?”. I got back a full spoken report of today’s weather, along with a forecast for this weekend. What is really impressive is that you can continue with voice search by asking further questions in a way you could never do with regular search (i.e. you can use other references from previous inquiry).
While not yet perfect, conversational search is still very appealing; we’ll see how this feature will be developed by engineers. The conversational search question-and-answer feature is now available to users of the latest version of Chrome 27 browser, which Google released this Tuesday.