Google has supercharged its search page, hooking in Gmail, Google Calendar, Drive, and Google+ information into “My Answers” so that users can simply ask for personal flight information, photos from particular trips, or reservations at hotels and restaurants. The new functionality – which effectively mines data from personal accounts – has been borrowed from Google Now, the search giant’s contextual service on Android and iOS devices, and Google Glass.
For instance, if you’ve received a flight confirmation email from an airline or booking site in your Gmail inbox, asking Google “Is my flight on time?” will automatically pull in relevant flight information for any upcoming travel. Similarly, asking for “my reservations” or “my hotel” will pull up details of upcoming stays, complete with contact information for the venue and the option to see navigation directions.
Joining the package tracking button in Gmail is the ability to now search for “my purchases”, which calls up a list of orders-in-process. There’s also “What are my plans for tomorrow” which shows a combined schedule of all upcoming events.
Perhaps most impressive is the ability for Google to sift through Google+ photo galleries and bring up themed images, when you ask, say, “Show me my photos from Paris.” Rather than asking for a specific location, it’s also possible to request types of shot, such as sunsets or beaches.
Google says it’s working on refining the system all the time, though the actual results may not be entirely accurate initially, especially for the photo indexing. There’ll also be more functionality added over time, bringing more personal data to search results.
Unsurprisingly, Google has preemptively addressed issues of privacy for “My Answers”; so, for instance, the information only shows up when users are logged in, and is funneled through an encrypted connection so as not to be intercepted and monitored. It’s also possible to turn the results off, either temporarily or permanently.
Google’s ambitions for Google Now have been clear for some time, and its expansion to the desktop is not unexpected. Back at Mobile World Congress in February, Android user experience chief Matias Duarte told SlashGear how Now represents a more confident, certain version of Google, willing to assume which results users are specifically looking for, rather than simply offering up a huge range of possibilities.
That contextual awareness is likely to become more and more relevant as mobile devices and wearables attempt to handle greater quantities of information, and are forced to sift through to cherry-pick what the user is most likely to actually want to see. That’s begun to happen with new smartphones like Motorola’s Moto X and Google’s own Glass wearable project.