Google: Understanding is the next frontier of search; Meet Wonder Wheel, Google Squared

Google executives argued that "understanding people, health, communication, education and knowledge" is the next frontier of search.At its annual Searchology powwow Tuesday, a series of executives led by Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience, unveiled Google's latest efforts in search refinement, including a search option panel that allows users to drill down deeper into the results (Techmeme, presentation).

Google executives argued that "understanding people, health, communication, education and knowledge" is the next frontier of search.

At its annual Searchology powwow Tuesday, a series of executives led by Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience, unveiled Google's latest efforts in search refinement, including a search option panel that allows users to drill down deeper into the results (Techmeme, presentation).

Mayer described it as "a new set of tools that allows you to slice and dice results in new ways."

The search option panel, which goes live today, is one example of how Google is aiming to capture more understanding about its users. The search giant said that it aims to figure out what the user intent is and get the results quickly. If this sounds vaguely familiar that's because Wolfram Alpha has been pitching the understanding theme for search search. Indeed you could argue that Google is preempting what Wolfram Alpha is pitching.

Google also showed off something it called the "Wonder Wheel," a graphical way to explore topics by clicking on related searches that go deeper into the subject of the main query. It also showcased Google Squared, a tool designed to chart research into columns and rows for those who are trying to track and organize information they get from the Web. Google Squared will be available in Labs later this month.

Mayer also talked about "rich snippets," which enhances the results with refined information in the sampling of text that appears below the title and link. The idea is for users to be able to find information quickly and easily without clicking on a bunch of links that might not offer the information they're seeking. The company also announced the support of open standards so that webmasters can code the site on their own to provide Google with the enhanced data for the snippet. "Not only will it improve Google's search results, it's a step toward making the whole Internet smarter," Mayer said.

Google has altered its messaging in recent weeks to make it clear that it is just as technologically savvy as any newcomer. Udi Manber, vice president of engineering at Google, said the company's aim is "to do rocket science that's taken for granted."

Also see: Google: Looking over shoulder at Wolfram|Alpha?

"The real goal is that we have many users and we have to solve their problems. What is user intent, what do they need and get it to them," said Manber.

Manber and other execs highlighted automatic language translation, user options and mobile searches. The message from Google: It wants to understand you. "We can concentrate on starting to understand," said Manber, who noted that Google isn't there yet. "It's a start."