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July 6, 2013

Google Queryless Search

There's a Google blog post from 2007 titled "searching without a query". At that time, Google provided recommendations based on your search history.

Google now has a patent for "parameterless search". It's still a search without a query, but it now relies on context and mobile devices. Here's an example:

For example, assume that a mobile computing device is moving with a user on a highway who is travelling at speed during rush hour on a workday (e.g., Monday-Friday). If the user submits a parameterless search query to the mobile computing device, the device can examine its current context (travelling on the highway during rush hour) and infer that the user would like to receive traffic information for the stretch of highway ahead. The mobile computing device can infer parameters for the search query (e.g., traffic conditions and highway number), identify results for the search query (e.g., expect to encounter stop-and-go traffic in two miles), and provide the results to the user (e.g., activate a speaker on the mobile device and audibly transmit the traffic conditions to the user).

The patent provides some other information about the context:

A current context for a mobile computing device can include a variety of information associated with the mobile computing device and/or a user of the mobile computing device, such as the time of day and date (e.g., 2:00 pm on May 29, 2010), upcoming and/or recent calendar appointments (e.g., meeting with John at 2:30 pm on May 29, 2010), a direction and rate of speed at which the device is travelling (e.g., northbound at 20 miles per hour), a current geographic location (e.g., on the corner of 10th Street and Marquette Avenue), recent device activity (e.g., emails sent to John regarding the 2:30 meeting), etc. (... ) [Other parameters:] environmental information (e.g., weather information), travel information (e.g., traffic information, driving directions, transportation schedule information, map information), geographic proximity information (e.g., nearby business information), recently updated information (e.g., real-time news updates, blog updates, email/texting conversation updates), and personal information (e.g., contact information for a user's acquaintances).

Google Now already combines information from various sources, including your location, your email account and your calendar, and shows traffic information and alternate routes when it's likely that you need them. It will get even smarter and show the things you need to know before you try to find them like a psychic that reads your mind and anticipates your intentions.

That's queryless search and it's one of the reasons why Google now combines information from various services. Google needs to understand language, your preferences and the context to find the right answer to almost any question.

Google's first April Fools' Day joke anticipated this back in 2000:



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