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Google Knowledge Graph widens search

Google's Amit Singhal, SVP, Engineering, has posted on Google’s Official Blog about a major change to Google search. Singhal said that to date most online searches have been largely devoid of context, trying to match words. However, Knowledge Graph will attempt to understand relationships between real-world entities, thereby providing more context for searches and, in theory, better results.

“The Knowledge Graph enables you to search for things, people or places that Google knows about – landmarks, celebrities, cities, sports teams, buildings, geographical features, movies, celestial objects, works of art and more – and instantly get information that’s relevant to your query,” said Singhal. “This is a critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do.”

Jack Menzel, Product Management Director, provided real-world examples of the system at work: “Say you’re interested in Renaissance painters or how many women have won the Nobel Prize. By understanding the relationships between things, be it between painters and the Renaissance or women and the Nobel Prize, Google can do a better job of understanding what it is exactly you’re searching for.”

Initially, this new aspect of Google resides in a panel alongside the search results, outlining key facts, enabling you to narrow search results by context, and also to discover connections that “help you make some unexpected discoveries”. Technical Lead Shashi Thakur noted how this could work with Menzel’s Renaissance painters example: “You might search for Leonardo da Vinci, because he’s the only Renaissance painter you know about. Now, you’ll see information right in the search results that helps you explore the topic. […] You’ll see some of the most famous paintings from that era, and discover other painters of that time.”

Although this sounds a lot like Wikipedia, Google noted that data is drawn from other sources, including the CIA World Factbook, and augmented by myriad daily search results. As for how it will affect Google search in the future, Johanna Wright, Product Management Director, enthused: “We’re in the early phases of moving from being an information engine to a knowledge engine, and these enhancements are one step in that direction.”

Knowledge Graph is currently being rolled out to US English users and has also been optimised for mobile (Android and iOS), largely through the use of swipe gestures.