Google's new bright idea: knowing what you want before you've searched for it, & why this is going to be embarrassing

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You know the way family members will finish your sentences for you and know what you’re about to say before the words have even left your lips? It’s kind of annoying, kind of cute. Well, Google isn’t a member of your familiy, but it will soon start doing the same thing with what you type in to its search engine.

We already know Google tries to finish our sentences for us, just type one letter in and it comes with suggested searches (often really darn weird ones – see above) .. but this proposed new facility would mean Google will help you find what you want before you even know you want it.

The mind-reading search engine is something Google is already capable of doing and was highlighted at a tech conference in London yesterday by Algorithm engineer Amit Singhal. Called Searching without Searching, it takes personal data into account to suggest stuff to you before you know you want it. Things like using account information to work out when your wife’s birthday is, then scouring her online consumer history and popular products to propose to you things she might like.

While the technology for such a search engine is already there… it won’t be introduced till the privacy concerns around it are sorted out.

Tech companies are notoriously bad at giving real-life examples of why their products will be useful. I’m not convinced by this wife’s birthday present thing at all. In fact all I can forsee is embarrassing scenarios. Imagine –

You’re discussing an idea with your boss, you turn to your computer to google something relevant, and oh – before you’ve even typed in “website monetisation” or whatever Google has sensed your fingers hovering over the keypad.
and the screen is filled with videos of hamsters singing “nom nom nom”. Or worse. We’ll leave that to your imagination.

[via NewScientist]
Anna Leach


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