Even in the face of Wolfram Alpha, no one will deny that Google is a powerful research tool for our students. However, teasing out truly useful results can be challenging at best from the millions of pages returned by the average search. In response to this, Google revealed a new feature at their Searchology summit yesterday called Google Squared. To be released (not surprisingly) via Google Labs sometime close to the launch of Wolfram Alpha, squared adds an extra layer of semantic search to your Google research efforts.
As quoted in the Register, Google VP Marisa Mayer stated that
"One of the hardest problems in computer science is data abstraction - looking at the unstructured web and abstracting values and facts and information in a meaningful way in order to present it to users, building out some of these research spreadsheets in an automated way. But that’s no longer a hypothetical."
The San Francisco Chronicle described the feature in a bit more detail:
compiles details from several Web pages and organizes them into a table on a single page, with multiple columns like a spread sheet. A search for "small dogs," for instance, returns a list of breeds, an accompanying image and a brief description, plus the average height and weight of each breed.
Even Google acknowledged that this was still very much a "labs" feature that was imperfect at best. However, between Wolfram Alpha, Google's efforts in semantic search, and a host of competitors that will be popping up in this field, we may very well be on the edge of Search 3.0. This is good news for our students, teachers, and library scientists struggling to help our students get the information they want from the billions of pages of junk (and millions of pages of interest) floating around the web.