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March 10, 2008

The Idea Behind "Can Google Hear Me"

You might remember the crazy story behind Aaron Stanton had a great idea he couldn't bring to life and he decided to pitch it to Google. Last year, he created a site to share his story and managed to convince Google to hear his idea. Since then, a lot of things have happened, other companies became interested in his project and he created a prototype, with a small team of developers.

After more than a year, the idea has been finally unveiled: "a system for matching users to books based on a full-text analysis of writing style". The system analyzes a book to determine some characteristics: pacing, density, action, description, dialog and finds similar books by comparing these characteristics. These values can be calculated for each scene from the book and they generate a graph that briefly characterizes the book.
Do you like Stephen King's It, but thought it was too long? The technology behind BookLamp allows you to find books that are written with a similar tone, tense, perspective, action level, description level, and dialog level, while at the same time allowing you to specify details like... half the length. It's impervious to outside influences - like advertising - that impact socially driven recommendation systems, and isn't reliant on a large user base to work.

The video below includes more details about this idea and its potential uses:

You can go to to create an account and see the prototype, which only has information for a small number of science-fiction books. Whether Google will use this in Book Search or Amazon will use it to improve its book recommendation system, that's still an open question.


  1. That's actually a good idea. His used-car salesman publicity technique however, was not. I got tired of his video posts about 1/3 of the way through the second one.

  2. Funny thing is that I was wondering what happened to the Can Google Hear Me guy at school today, after not thinking about it for around a year.

  3. meh. Everybody is already thinking about recommendation systems for media to consume. That's what the netflix prize is all about. This just happens to be trying it on books.

    And, as Jobso said, people don't read books anymore ;)

  4. pretty interesting - i'm gonna check it out.

    we've got our own little 'can good hear me?' thing going on right now, ourselves. :)

  5. Neat idea in theory, guess it all depends on how feasible an implementation is.

  6. You don't know how good it is until you trial the idea in large scale to collect more intelligence and adjust the algorithms

  7. What's this? Like Pandora, but for books, and without the streaming content distribution? Good luck with that!

  8. @Peter

    Now *that* (bike routes on google maps) is an idea I have been wanting to see implemented. They have directions for public transit. What about bike paths? It's so hard to see the bike paths on the satellite view, and they aren't on the vector map. It won't create routes that use them.

    How about bike routing options that will use a combination of roads and bike paths? Or a route that prefers bike paths and stays off of busy streets?

    This would not only be useful; if it helps people drive less and bike more, it would be right in line with Google's philanthropic goals of using its engineering talent to help solve the world's problems.

    Google really should do this.

  9. Btw, his book visualization - it's unix - I know this!

  10. HAHA! The USA Patriot Act matches George Orwell's 1984 by 98 %.

  11. @andreas: I noticed that too ... also, if you click on the Patriot Act, the description they've entered for it is "A bad idea."


  12. "Can Google Hear Me?" comes off sounding like "Can I be upgraded to business-class masturbation?"

  13. Google sucks and their "search" "service" turns up a bunch of unreliable crap from a bunch of unreliable sources. Instead of addressing this they go and make a phone.
    As for the Booklamp app it really is just an app. This is far too much fuss to be making over an app that's far too technical to be of use to the general reader and it kills the spirit of being a book reader. Books are best discovered, not "matched according to tone, pitch, blah and blah".

  14. Maybe check out We are trying to do the "Pandora for books" concept... let us know what you think!


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