The expansion of Google's core search capabilities into applications such as cross-language information retrieval and book-searching were detailed by a company official Thursday who also predicted more personalization for searching.
During a keynote presentation at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco, Marissa Mayer, Google vice president for search products and user experience, said search would be expanded in devices such as phones and cars; search results also will include new media types.
"You'll see things like videos, images, graphs," stitched together as a holistic answer to a query, she said.
Personalization, Mayer said, might include knowing where users are and knowing what they have searched on previously.
She listed a roster of different Google projects, some in beta stage. Mayer cited Google Translate, a service now in beta that can perform translations across languages.
"If the answer exists in any language, we can find it," Mayer said.
Google is delving into book searching with its Google Book Search project, also in a beta stage. Also noted by Mayer was Google Health, an effort to let users control their own medical records. Additionally, Google has had a Ride Finder application, which can provide information on ride service in an area by taking GPS signals off of taxis and shuttle buses.
Goog-411, meanwhile, is a free service for phone-based searching for local businesses. Voice recognition and speech-to-text technology being used in this service could serve as a basis for other technologies such as video-searching, she said.
Despite Google's efforts, the company recognizes there will always be issues with search, given the ambiguous nature of some terms, Mayer said. "We'll never have the perfect solution," she said.
Mayer also touted Google's Gadgets software, which enable customizations of web pages. The New York Times crossword puzzle, for example, could reside on someone's home page. Developers, she said, can reach a broader spectrum of users with Gadgets. Thousands of developers are creating tens of millions of Gadgets she said,
"What's really interesting about these gadgets is that they really represent a new possibility for developers," she said.
Mayer also told some of the history of the company. The uncluttered, relatively blank Google home page resulted from expedience rather than a grand design, Mayer said. Google co-founder Sergey Brin told her the page was set up like this because Google at the time did not have a webmaster and he himself did not develop with HTML, Mayer recalled.
"That's why the Google home page looks the way it does today," she said.
But students testing the site in 1998 presumed there would be more to the home page and sat waiting for more visuals to load rather than tackle test searches they had been assigned, Mayer recalled. "The very first home page was that misunderstood," she said.