If you’re on Google Chrome and you go to the Google search, you might notice a little microphone on the search bar that lets you search by voice.  That’s been there before, granted, but recently, the voice search got much more impressive.  Google now lets you do a “conversational search” by voice, allowing you to almost literally hold a conversation with your search bar.

Imagine you’re talking to a friend about, say, William Shakespeare, and you haven’t a clue who he is.  You might ask “Who is William Shakespeare?”  To this, your friend might reply with a memorized first sentence from Wikipedia about Shakespeare’s preeminence as a playwright.  Then, because you’re curious, you ask, “How tall is he?”  Your friend wouldn’t say, “How tall is who?”  You were talking about Shakespeare; it’s obvious who you’re asking about.  And now, Google can do that, too.

conversational search

The results of my “How tall was he” question. Conversational search correctly interpreted “he” as Shakespeare.

I decided to see how long this would last and asked the first two questions, with my speakers spouting out answers.  Then I asked, “Where did he live?”  “Who was his wife?” and “How tall was she?”  Granted, the search was a bit confused on that last bit due to the fact that Anne Hathaway (the actor) borrowed the name from Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare’s wife) and Google assumed I was curious about the actor’s height.  However, for a computer to give me that information from “he” and “she” was quite impressive.

Go a step further.  What does everyone always complain about with Google?  They know everything about you.  But that actually makes conversation easier.  I ask the Conversational Search, “Will it be sunny tomorrow?”  It pulled up a forecast for my area and vocally responded, “No, don’t expect sunshine tomorrow, the forecast is 84 degrees and partly cloudy.”  If you ask for directions, it will automatically pull up a map, tell you the estimated time by car, and give you instructions on how to get there.

It’s a pretty impressive voice recognition software; I only confused it a few times (mostly with long words and talking too soon).  Go check it out, but be warned – if you’re easily amused, this can eat a lot of your time.