Wednesday, September 8

AJAX Results as you Type: Google Instant

Google announced Google Instant on their official blog.

Google Instant - "Search at the speed of thought". Google Instant is results as you type with a new AJAX view of Google's search results. It takes the autocomplete feature a step further and sends the most probable search to the server to fetch the results. A few optimizations to make it possible:
  • Prioritizing searches - the biggest optimization is to run only the most probable searches.
  • User state - shortcut in process searches that are obsolete to avoid running all searches to completion
  • Result caches - improved result caching
Overall, Google claims that instant search saves 2-5 seconds per query. It took some really committed engineers at Google, including Ben Gomes, to make it possible. Kudos!

It is worth noting that many of these ideas have been in the community for awhile. For example, it reminds me of the CompleteSearch system, which has been around since SIGIR 2006. CompleteSearch has some novel prefix based search capability which is still beyond what Google rolled out today.

Tuesday, September 7

Autonomous Search: Did you know?

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google gave a keynote address at IFA, a consumer electronics show in Germany. The keynote was covered in an article by paidContent. He emphasizes "mobile first" as very important. According to him, the new and most interesting applications are happening on smart phones.

This leads to what Eric describes as "autonomous search",
Ultimately, search is about finding what you want right now and The next step of search is doing this automatically. And so when I'm walking down Berlin and I like history my smart phone is doing searches constantly - did you know? did you know? did you know? This occurred here, this occurred there.

Because it knows who I am, it knows what I care about, and it knows where roughly where I am. This notion of autonomous search, the ability to tell me things I didn't know, but I'm probably very interested in, is the next great stage in search.
See also an earlier interview with Amit Singhal on the Evolution of Search. Many of these future search applications share ground in common with the field of Agent Planning in AI. One company taking an initial step in this direction is Siri (read me previous post on Siri and Darpa's CALO project), a task oriented virtual assistant for your iPhone. You could reframe much of what Eric described as "Intelligent Search". Tom Gruber, the CTO of SIRI, describes some principles from Intelligence at the Interface:
  • It knows a lot about you.
  • It understands you in context.
  • It is proactive.
  • It gets better with experience.
I think one of the key things that is new in "autonomous" or "intelligent" search is that the system proactively surfaces interesting information to the user and assists the user in performing actions. A key challenge is how to perform rigorous evaluation in such an immature and developing area. The task is a significant departure from some of the more traditional adhoc search tasks and requires a much richer user model.