Search “assistants”

Google had much to say about the new “Google assistant” at its annual developers’ conference, Google I/O. It has AI capability and will be built into apps. Danny SUllivan explained in Meet Google assistant: A new search platform, rather than a gadget or an app (May 18)

“So what is Google assistant, in the end? Google assistant combines two things: Google’s expertise in extracting information from content across the web and from partners plus its machine learning smarts to understand what people are asking.”

Broadly, these are called digital assistants. Others are Siri from Apple, Cortana – Microsoft, Echo in ALexa – Amazon. Paul Hunter at State of Digital asked Will Digital Assistants Replace Search? No – because the assistants are most useful for directions, shopping – the kinds of questions spoken to a smartphone – not deeper research into a topic or need. Hunter closes with “Voice search and digital assistants are definitely going to become a big factor in digital, but will it be the end of search? I doubt it.”

Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, sees Google’s next stage to be in the realms of artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Google’s CEO sums up his AI vision: “Hi. How can I help?” CNet (May 17)

Products that reflect this and were shown at the I/O conference:

… a messaging app (which suggests comparisons to Facebook Messenger), a voice-activated speaker and smart home control hub (sort of like Amazon’s Echo), a video chat app (think Apple’s Facetime) and a new hardware and software system for VR built around a smartphone (shades of Samsung Gear VR).

The assistant will be “baked in” to new products. Google Home is a smart home speaker – talk to it anytime and use it to manage the house. Allo is a messaging app that will compete with Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and Kik.

Google Translate News

There have been at least two important postings about Google Translate in the Official Blog.

Ten years of Google Translate (April 28) – yes Translate has been with us for 10 years. It now handles 103 languages.

One of the bigger developments is Word Lens – using this app on your mobile phone for “reading menus, street signs and more” – works for 28 languages.

Translate where you need it: in any app, offline, and wherever you see Chinese (May 11) – announces Tap to Translate on Android – copy the text and get the translation.

Posting also announces offline mode for iOS – download the language package and be able to translate when offline.

Recipes with IFTTT and Reddit

Tara Calashain shows how to use IFTTT (If this, then that) to set up automatic search queries on Reddit where its 8.5 million users post millions of news stories. In it she shows how to set up a recipe for receiving an email whenever a Reddit search mentions online museum. She found it was a much better way than using Google Alerts on Reddit items.

Keeping Up With Reddit: Use IFTTT, Not Google Alerts, Research Buzz (May 10)

Cortana-Edge-Bing integration

Microsoft has taken some action to limit users of Cortana, the digital assistant in Windows 10, to using the Edge browser and Bing search engine. These three are tightly integrated – something that may very well annoy people.

Danny SUllivan writes about it in Microsoft blocks Google Chrome & other browsers from Cortana in latest Windows 10 release, Search Engine Land (Apr 28). Sullivan offers a way to hack the search engine setting, but it still seems pretty locked down. Competing digital assistants – Google Now, Apple’s Siri, etc – do the same.

Directions at DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo now offers maps and directions in a very handy, and meta, way to local services. It is described in the DDG blog post  Directions! with an example from the US. This works in Canada (in Toronto), although Apple Maps is not one of the map choices  –  Bing, Google, Here, and OpenStreetMap. Select the service you prefer and carry on. OpenStreetMap doesn’t have a public transit .

In running the query it can help to include directions! ( although not essential). This search feature is mostly for restaurants. It worked for Queen’s Park, the legislature for Ontario, but not for Art Gallery of Ontario.

DuckDuckGo screenshot of search for Paramount restaurant in Toronto

DuckDuckGo shows maps and directions

ntario or Archives of Ontario.  This limitation seemed true in US cities too.

 

Google Translate and other services

Google has several translate functions- now available by text, by speech, and by image – plus some other tricks.

Found in Translation at the Reference Desk , Irene E McDermott, Online Searcher (Jan-Feb 2016)

Article has more about translation services being used in libraries and being provided by the librarians to their clients.

“Translation, whether it is human or machine-generated, facilitates free access to information. And that is what public libraries are all about.”

Read it later

If you like to save articles to read later, this article compares Pocket to Instapaper.

Read It Later Showdown: Pocket vs. Instapaper, Thorin Kiosowski, Lifehacker (Jan 31)

When it comes to “read it later” services that let you save articles today to read when you have time, you only have two serious options these days: Pocket and Instapaper. Both are great, but they’ve diverged a bit over the years and play to different strengths.