Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Google Adds Voice Search, Visual Search and Results Prerendering

Two of the most significant Google mobile services: voice search and visual search will now be obtainable from your computer.

Voice search, a feature that's built into Android, also works in Google Chrome and allows you to search using your voice. Chrome additional support for the Speech Input API back in April and it's the only browser that implemented the API. Right now, Chrome's speech input feature is only accessible for English.


"We first offered speech credit on mobile search, but you should have that power no matter where you are. You should never have to stop and ask yourself, 'Can I speak for this?' — it should be ever-present and intuitive. So we've further speech recognition into search on desktop for Chrome users. If you're using Chrome, you'll start to see a little microphone in every Google search box. Simply click the microphone, and you can speak your search," explains Google. The feature is steadily rolled out, so you may not see it yet.

Google Goggles is a full-fledged visual search engine that's attentive in a mobile application. But why do you have to buy a smartphone to use Google Goggles when you could just upload an image to Google and find related pages and images on the Web? "Search by Image" does more than TinEye, the "reverse image search engine" that lets you find an image on the Web.


"Google uses computer visualization techniques to match your image to other images in the Google Images index and additional image collections. From those matches, we try to produce an accurate 'best guess' text description of your image, as well as find other images that have the same pleased as your search image. Your search results page can show results for that text description as well as linked images," mentions Google.

You can drag and drop an image to the search box, paste an image URL in the search box or click the camera icon and upload an image. Google generates a hybrid results page that shows both linked images and Web search results for the corresponding text query.

Google also a urbanized two extensions for Chrome and Firefox that let you right-click on an image and use it as a query. "With these extensions, you can begin a search on Google using pictures on the web. You can find out photos of places, learn more about art pieces, identify landmarks, and more."

While voice search and visual search are useful, the most inspiring search feature launched by Google today is Instant Pages. The new feature only works in Chrome 13+ (available in Canary/Dev Channel and soon in beta), but it will thoroughly improve your search experience. Chrome prerenders the top search result if it's likely that you will select it, so you no longer have to remain for the page to load. You might remember a feature called "prefetching" that was first supported by Firefox. Prerendering is a lot more influential than prefetching.

According to a Chrome developer, "prefetch is Firefox style prefetching of resources particular (just populating the cache). In Chrome, with prerender, we don't just download the URL specified, but render the whole page counting running all the JavaScript and downloading and rendering all the embedded resources."

For most users, Instant Pages will look like magic. They'll search for [nytimes] or [amazon], click the first result and be astonished to see that the page loads instantly. Google says that this feature saves 2-5 seconds on a characteristic search.

But Chrome's prerendering is not imperfect to Google searches. Any Web developer can use it by inserting a link element with a special value for the "rel" attribute. "Sometimes a site may be able to predict with sensible accuracy which link the user is most likely to click on next -- for example, the 'next page' link in a multi-page news article. In those cases, it would be faster and better for the user if the browser could get a head start loading the next page so that when the user clicks the page is already well on its way to being overloaded," suggests Google.

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