Yesterday, Google’s CEO Larry Page announced that Andy Rubin would no longer be in charge of the mobile platform Android at Google,, but would be moving on to new challenges at the company. In the announcement, Page urged the entrepreneur and inventor to take “more moonshots please.” Andy Rubin brought Android to Google in 2004, but I’ve been wondering since yesterday’s announcement if we would see a different kind of Android delivered by his hands.
Rubin does have a history of enjoying tinkering with robots, and that seems to be an area that Google is quietly focusing upon. Regardless of whether or not the former Android chief is involved, do we need to add robots to the list of science fiction type endeavors Google is working upon?
I mentioned robots in the post, Inside the Google House of Ideas: 2 Lens Glass, Google Robots, and Smartwatches, a few weeks back after Google was granted 2 patents that involved providing instructions for robots, and enabling robots to make their own decisions (as if the patent covered Asimov’s three rules of robotics). Last October I also wrote about a paper to be presented this May that describes how robots might use an object recognition search from databases located in the Cloud to learn how to handle objects while doing their daily chores.
In 2006, Google battled Yahoo! and Microsoft for an algorithm developed by an Israeli Ph.D.student in Australia. The algorithm had a semantic element to it, and advanced Google in an algorithm arms race between the search giants (one of which doesn’t even have a search engine of its own now). We’ve seen the technology described in terms of how it is displayed in search results, but not how it does what it does. Until now.
Google was awarded a patent this week that looks at search results for specific queries and the entities that appear within them, to produce query refinements. This invention is from Google, but the lead inventor behind it was part of a bidding war between Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft. In 2009, the breakthrough was made public on Google in the form of Orion technology.
The Orion approach involved both extended snippets for queries (three or more lines of descriptive snippet instead of two for some longer queries), and “more and better query refinements.” How this technology is displayed is described in a Google Official Blog post from March 24, 2009 titled Two new improvements to Google results pages.
As long as there have been search engines, there have been people trying to take advantage of them to try to get pages to rank higher in search engines. It’s not unusual to see within many SEO site audits a section on negative practices that a search engine might frown upon, and Google lists a number of those practices in their Webmaster Guidelines. Linked from the Guidelines is a Google page on Hidden Text and Links, where Google tells us to wary about doing things such as:
- Using white text on a white background
- Locating text behind an image
- Using CSS to position text off-screen
- Setting the font size to 0
- Hiding a link by only linking one small character—for example, a hyphen in the middle of a paragraph
It doesn’t do any good to rank well in search results if no one clicks through.
If you go to Google Webmaster tools, and see the list of queries a page of yours might rank well for, you might see some query terms or phrases that you want to show up in search results. Webmaster Tools will show you how many “search impressions” your page might receive, as well as how many people have clicked on it when they have seen it. So what if your page has received 10,000 search impressions for that term or phrase, but only 50 clicks?
One question you should probably ask yourself is if the term or phrase is one that is satisfied by your page.
Sometimes a query term has more than one meaning, and most people searching for it might be looking for a different meaning. For example, you create a page about Java the drink, and most searchers may be looking for the programming language.
When you perform a search at Google, and you have a set of search results in front of you, how do you decide what to click upon? How do you judge the page titles, the snippets, and the URLs that you see. How does Google decide what to show you? A little more than a year ago, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Pierre Far wrote on the Google Webmaster Central Blog a post titled Better page titles in search results. There he told us that Google might sometimes rewrite the titles for web pages when showing them in search results. The post told us that Google might do some changing of titles when those had generic titles such as “home”, or no title at all, or:
We use many signals to decide which title to show to users, primarily the <title> tag if the webmaster specified one. But for some pages, a single title might not be the best one to show for all queries, and so we have algorithms that generate alternative titles to make it easier for our users to recognize relevant pages.
Before we consider how Google might decide when and how to change page titles (in a follow up post to this one), there’s another question about search results that needs some exploration.
Neither The Nation or Computerworld should write about patents. Period. Never. In the past couple of days Computerworld posted a “breaking news” story about the publication of a Google patent application from 9 months ago (not breaking news). The Nation wrote a followup story on Computerworld‘s story, and made the same mistake.
Both saw optimism when they should have instead felt fear.
They weren’t publishing information about a 9 month old patent, but rather a ten year old patent. They would have known that if they ever wrote about patents.
It was an easy enough mistake to make, and one that most journalists will make if they don’t know much about patents, or don’t ask for the help of someone who does. It’s a story about how Google ranks stories in Google News, and what signals they might look at when deciding which source to feature out of a cluster of similar stories about similar topics.
There are rumors that Google will be opening retail stores sometime in the near future (some rumors point to next year). The question rises though, what will Google feature in those storefronts? Will Chromebooks be a kiosk filler item? Will we see Android based phones? Are Google Glass wearable eye glasses still somewhat far off? Might self-driving cars still face changes in state legislation? Google TV might be a possibility. Home entertainment systems running on Android Hardware could also be shelf stuffers. Or will Google pull out some surprises for us?
Some recent patent filings from Google provide some possible hints at what we might see in Googleshops (or whatever they might be called) at some point, if Google does indeed open retail shops.
Imagine recording your life, so that you can search through it, and play it back later. Things that you record through audio and video might be sent to your own personal search database where pictures you take might be processed. Images of faces may go through facial recognition software. Landmarks and objects might also be recognized as well. You might be able to write or speak queries like the following:
- What was the playlist of songs at the party last night?
- What were the paintings I saw when I was on vacation in Paris
- Who were the people at the business lunch this afternoon?
- How many books did I read in May?
It’s possible that you might be able to collect information like this, and have it associated with both your user ID and a digital signature to keep it from others, unless you decided to join with a group such as a family, or fire fighters, or co-workers, to create a shared data base for one or more events.