Since its inception, Google’s search engine has offered a simple user interface: type your search query into a box, and you can discover what the Internet has to offer. Results are largely delivered as blue text, hyperlinked to other sites. In recent years, results have been enhanced with visual results, related news stories, and other forms of related content.
Even so, Google’s own internal research has shown that a significant portion of young internet users prefer to search for information on social apps, like Instagram and TikTok, rather than Google products. These ever-changing user preferences are why Google is evolving its core search tools to include more multimodal forms of communication and to include information from more “authentic” sources like social media posts.
“The way people search and author information was never designed to be forced into typing words,” Cathy Edwards, Google vice president and chief search officer, told reporters ahead of the press release. Google’s Search On event on Wednesday. “There is so much information on the web that comes in different formats and from different voices that have different authority and expertise.”
At Wednesday’s event, Google announced that it would introduce search users to content from “creators on the open web.” If a user searches for the name of a specific city, for example, they may get results that include visual stories and short videos of people who have visited that location.
“We can really see, as we enter this new era of search, that you will be able to find exactly what you are looking for by combining images, sounds, text and speech, organized in a way that makes sense. for you,” Edwards said. “And it ultimately helps you make sense of the world.”
Edwards acknowledged that “there is some really great content” on TikTok because it has lowered the barriers to entry for content creation. “We are looking at other ways to incorporate this into our search results,” she said.
Google’s “new era of search” also puts more emphasis on community-led conversations on forums like Reddit, another platform that serves as an alternative to Google Search. Google is launching a new feature in search called Discussions in Forums that brings these results.
“There are people who obviously want to see more results from Reddit and other community forums in our results,” Edwards said. “Fundamentally, it’s just about giving people what they want, when and what is most useful to them when they come to us.”
At the same time, Edwards said Google is focused on ensuring users can find “both authentic and authoritative information” on its search tools.
“We also see in our research that people come to Google specifically to verify their claims and … to help them decide if they want to believe something they might have found on a social feed,” she said. . “They’re really confident that they’ll be able to find high-quality information on Google, and I think that’s really important as well.”
Google’s increased focus on multimodal search is not just about results, but also about how users can ask questions.
Earlier this year, Google introduced multiple search in beta, allowing users to search for a topic using images and text simultaneously. Now, in the coming months, Google will expand this capability to over 70 languages.
Meanwhile, Google is also improving its lens capabilities. People already use Google to translate text into images more than a billion times a month, in over 100 languages. Now, if you point your camera at an image containing text, Lens will be able to translate the text and overlay the translated text on the images below. For example, if you read the label on a bag of chips, the text will appear in your preferred language on that bag of chips.
“Instead of covering up the original text, we actually erase it and then reconstruct the pixels underneath with an AI-generated background,” Edwards explained. “And then we overlay the translated text on top of the image. So you really feel like you’re looking at the product packaging with the translated text.” This feature will be launched later this year.
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