Google's Biggest Search-Related Technology Challenges
A "Star Trek"-like computer clearly dominates Amit Singhal's vision for the future of search at Google, but there are four key challenges the company has yet to solve.
The Google senior vice president of search and Google fellow told South by Southwest conference (SXSW) Interactive attendees that technology should fade into the background, giving searchers what they need without being intrusive. Mobile phones have made it easier, but technology remains unnatural.
Singhal said the biggest challenge to accomplishing Google's mission resides in four main areas known as Knowledge Graph, speech recognition, natural language understanding and conversation. The unsolved problems range from giving Google's search algorithms insights into the world, while speech recognition supports voice, and natural language allows understanding of voice transcription and conversation.
"Twenty years back when I started out as a grad student I never thought they would be as far as they are today in my lifetime," he said."Twenty years back when I was starting out as a grad student in search we struggled to figure out how to [differentiate] Apple the fruit from the company."
Singhal, who joined Google 12 years ago, has studied search for 20 years, keeping the Star Trek theme close at hand. In the original television series, Captain Kirk asked the computer questions. Answers would include the integration of environmental and personal data. Singhal pointed to Google Now aimed at working in the background to serve information to the users based on a variety of signals, from personal calendar entries to highway traffic in the event an airline flight is delayed.
Technology should give users information they need to know even if they don't ask for it, Singhal said. "Our dream is for search to become the Star Trek computer," he said. "That's what we're building today."