Commentary

College Students Redesign Google Into Personal Assistant

Google Redesign

Members of the generation raised on Google wants search engines to know how they think and feel. They want visual search, and for engines to serve them ideas based on personal information stored in social sites across the Web.

For example, when they search for movies after they've had a bad break-up, they want search engines to filter out romantic comedies. That might mean processing brain waves and reading physical movements through a PC camera, similar to Microsoft's Project Natal.

That's how a handful of Ball State University students would rethink how they find information online and offline, as well as redesign search on a variety of platforms and devices, according to Jen Milks and Michelle Prieb, project managers at Ball State University. The two shared their findings during the closing session Saturday of MediaPost's Search Insider Summit.

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The students considered older generations, such as 75-year-old Aunt Bess who wants to upload and share Cindy's wedding photos. They believe search should become easier for others to understand and use, too.

Verbal communication would also integrate into search, according to the students' redesign, and provide a continual feedback loop. Both parties would contribute to the conversation equally, with searchers telling the engine likes and dislikes through their preferences, social sites, email, Web browsing history and blogs read.

All the information in these sites tells the engine about the students, which gives marketers the insight through search queries into what they want to see. The clarification comes in questions while searching. "Are you looking for an engagement ring for yourself, or are you helping someone do the research?"

The students also want an option to make the search process either targeted or exploratory, depending on if they specifically know what they want. Perhaps Google should replace the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button with "I'm Feeling Adventurous."

Similar to how Pandora analyzes the composition of songs based on prior picks, the students want search engines to analyze the composition of their virtual identity and serve them recommendations based on that process.

Integrating social data into search would increase targeted searches and targeted ads. Milks called keyword searches imperfect. But what if search engines could pull from data in social sites, including Twitter, input and made public by the person doing the search, as well as recommendations from friends?

Cloud computing will enable people searching to gain power on a variety of devices everywhere, from PC to mobile to television. They want images and visual search, touch, voice activation, and augmented reality.

4 comments about "College Students Redesign Google Into Personal Assistant".
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  1. Carol Tomalty from CarricDesign, April 19, 2010 at 3:13 p.m.

    If I were redesigning Google, I would want the easy flexibility of searching (a) with past preferences taken into account OR (b) totally ignoring past preferences (to see what interesting stuff comes up). It would be great to have a button or an on/off switch instead of having to edit preferences.

  2. John Jainschigg from World2Worlds, Inc., April 19, 2010 at 10:54 p.m.

    Cute ... it sounds like they desire a relationship with Google that's not unlike the relationship they'll never have with their dream boyfriend/girlfriend, who always knows how they're thinking and feeling and what will make them happy.

    Someone should mention to these kids both a) this dream is delusional when applied to spouses and positively scary when applied to Google, b) it's hugely better for your mind to train database skills, deep sensitivity to language, usage, and a wide range of subject matters, so to acquire and refine the unerring ability to enter a complex search-phrase into a comprehensive (but not psychic) search engine, and see the result you need drop into the hopper, and c) that -- particularly now that Google has pretty-much already eliminated the need for people to retain deep information -- modifying it to largely eliminate the need for people to even communicate what they'd _like_ to know could be a bad idea, progress-of-the-intellectual-experiment-that-is-Western-culture-wise.

  3. Gordon Husbands from Wordbank Limited, April 21, 2010 at 10:26 a.m.

    While their innocence is charming all this is based on Google retaining their admirable 'do no evil' mantra.
    However, totalitarian governments have no such restraints. Witness how the Nazis harnessed innocent and widely available IBM data collating machines to evil effect in identifying and categorising the ethincity and religion of those it wished to expunge. Stalin was no less systematic.
    Berlin was at its most hedonistic and liberal just prior to the take over and thuggery of the Brownshirts. Not suggesting that we are on the cusp of a facist revolution but some prudence is protecting your own personal data is required. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

  4. George Morris from Imulus, June 12, 2010 at 4:58 p.m.

    This is a noble effort, and certainly the direction for the future. However, I really hope these features can be quickly toggled on/off otherwise it may filter out options that *would* be relevant to me.

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