Not too long ago, people headed over to Google to bomb a few keywords into the search box. Today, it’s becoming more and more common to ask Google questions — and their search algorithms are getting better at coming up with answers.
Google’s been learning how to process our natural language queries more accurately. Their systems are doing it by breaking down questions into easier-to-process chunks. Say you want to find out which US President was in office the last time the Angels (who were just the Anaheim Angels at the time) won the World Series. Google would first return two sets of data: chronological lists of all the Presidents and all the World Series winners. Since there’s only one possible answer (the Angels only brought home the title in 2002), all Google has to do is sift through the Presidents by year and stop when they get to 2002 — when good ol’ Dubya was in his first term. Here they are, together on the steps of the White House:
Google offers several other examples of queries you can punch in to test their analytical prowess. Ask which songs Taylor Swift recorded in 2014 or who the tallest Mavs players are, and Google will respond with a strip of thumbnails across the top of your results page.
Ask Google to show you all the movies Bruce Campbell has been in like I did, and you should see something like the image at the top of this post. For a new search feature, it actually works quite well. It’ll get better over time as more Google users ask more and more questions, too.
For now, just be aware that if you ask Google to tell you something, like who played for the Bulls when the Berlin Wall came down, you might just get a plain vanilla set of results — but you’ll be helping out in the long run.