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Google Wants To Give Users The Star Trek Computer Experience

April 12, 2013 - Written By Joe Levin

We all know that the people who work at Google are geeky, super geeky in fact. To borrow a phrase from Seinfeld “not that there’s anything wrong with that.” I mean all of us have an inner geek and not only that, their geek is our gain.

Look at all the innovations that Google has brought us over the years starting with a search engine that gets smarter by the day and going all the way to an ever evolving Android mobile operating system, our lives have been made easier by these guys. What we may not have realized though is that it is all part of a master plan by the search giant to make the ultimate geeks’ dream come true, to actually build the Computer from Star Trek.

That’s not just a pipe dream either, they really plan on building the Star Trek computer and if you look at some the additions to their services in the past few years those aspirations aren’t so off base. This goes way beyond the minor things like Google employees referring to their Android smartphones as a combination of Star Trek’s tricorder and the USS Enterprise computer too. One only has to hear Amid Singhal, head of the Google Search ranking team discuss the topic:

“The Star Trek computer is not just a metaphor that we use to explain to others what we’re building. It is the ideal that we’re aiming to build—the ideal version done realistically. It comes up often. For instance, we might say, ‘Captain Kirk never pulled out a keyboard to ask a question.’ So in that way it becomes one of the design principles—we see that because the Star Trek computer actively relies on speech, if we want to do that we need to work to push the barrier of speech recognition and machine understanding.”

Now for those of you who may not be fans of the Sci-Fi series, the Star Trek computer would give the crew answers to questions before they were even asked. This is something that Google is building with their Graph Search engine. As it is we’ve gotten to the point where we are asking Google questions rather than just inputting search terms into a search engine. That’s a minor evolution but an important one.

But Google has even taken it a step further, as people who are running Jelly Bean on their devices can attest. Google “Now” will give people all sorts of relevant information depending on their location or the time of day. That’s some Star Trek computer stuff right there, no?

Singhal says that the plan is to have the search engine so evolved in five years that it will become an integral part of people’s lives:

“You already see hints of the Star Trek computer in your phone. Now we’re trying to get it to a point where it passes the ‘toothbrush test’ of you using it twice a day.”

For us geeks who are already all in with Google Now as it is, the future looks very bright.