Google’s Natural Language Efforts Taking Inspiration from Star Trek

Google Natural Language Goal:
Like Using a Star Trek Computer!

Sorry Star Wars, you just lost another, another, another, another technical superiority battle against Star Trek.

Mark Fillmore - Captain Picark

Google’s head of spam, Matt Cutts, just announced that the future of digital search at Google is being modeled after Star Trek computers. I know it’s a tough pill to swallow Star Wars fans, but let’s get real for a moment.

What makes Star Trek computers superior to Star Wars computers?

Well, they can listen, understand speech, and they can speak back. Star Trek computers also don’t require hammers and wrenches to fix them either. Isolinear chips are just such a better solution than— well, whatever the heck Han’s ship was using.

Solo Fixing Busted Millennium Falcon

I think ’nuff said here, so back to Matt…

Why Google Likes Star Trek Better!

In essence what Mr. Cutts is getting at here in his video is something Gene Roddenberry figured out many decades ago. A computer really should be able to understand human verbal communication and how we change the way we interact based on audiences and by the context of our activities and thinking. When a human is searching for something or needs assistance with something, a computer’s algorithm would best aid that person if it had some understanding of this and therefore often understand intent behind the request. Those of you who have Siri know firsthand how sometimes she gets things right, and sometimes well….

The first Google Engineer, Gene Roddenberry

Google & Natural Language So far

Google’s long term goal of understanding Natural Language is something they’ve obviously been working on for some time. Here’s a great article about how it works, sort of, and in this article it’s referred to as “Conversational Search” by Danny Sullivan. If you haven’t tried these handful of voice searches in Chrome before, you really should give them a whirl.

Try these voice searches, in chrome, in this order, one after another:

  1. How old is Barack Obama
  2. What is his job?
  3. Who is his wife?
  4. What are his kid’s names?

Google – I’m here to help!

So Matt, as your developers continue their trek down their voyage of figuring out Natural Language search at Google I sure hope you’re leveraging the multitude of hours of Star Trek episodes available to you for research material. However, if you feel lost at any point, feel free to reach out to me (you know my number) if you need any help looking for suggested Star Trek episodes to review for inspiration, I just restarted the entire Voyager series on Netflix so I’m ready to roll.

Better luck next time Star Warriors.

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