kirktrek

Answer. Converse. Anticipate. Those are the verbs that Google believes will lead to “the end of search as we know it.” Google doesn’t want search to be restricted to a sparse landing page and a specific query. It wants search to become something as ubiquitous as oxygen and as powerful as devices that previously existed only in science fiction.

“Like many of you, I was captivated by ‘Star Trek.’ I dreamt of building that computer one day,” said Google’s Amit Singhal during the Google I/O opening keynote. “Little did I know I would grow up to be responsible for building my dream for the entire world.”

Realizing that dream and building a tool that seems like it should only exist in made-up universes requires that Google master those three verbs and continuously rethink the way so many people interact with the Web and all the information it represents.

Which is why the company today announced that Knowledge Graph will begin to answer Google users’ questions before they ask them; that people will be able to converse with Google via the Chrome Web browser as well as iOS and Android devices; and that Google Now, the company’s virtual assistant, is better able to anticipate what users might want to know at any given time.

Voice-activated search coming to the Chrome browser is perhaps the most interesting of today’s search-related announcements. Google Now — or some version of it, anyway — has been rumored to be coming to desktop computers for months, and its addition to Chrome will aid Google’s attempts to become a ubiquitous aspect of users’ lives.

“People communicate with each other by conversation, not by typing keywords — and we’ve been hard at work to make Google understand and answer your questions more like people do,” Singhal writes on the Inside Search blog. This functionality has been available on mobile devices for a while, he adds, and today’s announcement is about bringing the same capability to the desktop.

People are now able to interact with Google simply by saying “Okay Google” and asking a question or giving a command while Chrome is running. (Whether this means that Chrome is always listening and constantly sending data to Google’s servers, or that it will only communicate with Google once that prompt is uttered, wasn’t made clear during the keynote.)

This means that the 750 million people who use Chrome on the desktop or Android and iOS devices will now be able to converse with Google no matter where they are. Google will stop being a destination and will instead act as a user’s always-available connection to all of the Web’s information — or, at least, all of the information Google has collected from the Web.