The Future of Search Is Already Here

One of my favourite quotes (and one I probably misquote – which is a pre-requisite of the best quotes) is William Gibson’s “the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet”…

Several times tonight, I realised that the future is increasingly happening around me, and it’s appearing so quickly I’m having problems even imagining what might come next.

So here for you delectation are some of the things I saw earlier this evening:

  • SnapTell: a mobile and iPhone app that lets you photograph a book, CD or game cover and it’ll recognise it, tell you what it is and take you to the appropriate Amazon page so you can buy it… (originally via CogDogBlog;

  • Shazam, a music recognition application that will identify a piece of music that’s playing out loud, pop up some details, and then let you buy it on iTunes or view a version of the song being played on Youtube (the CogDog also mentioned this, but it was arrived at tonight independently);

    So just imagine the “workflow” here: you hear a song playing, fire up the Shazam app, it recognises the song, then you can watch someone play a version of the song (maybe even the same version on Youtube.

  • A picture of a thousand words?: if you upload a scanned document onto the web as a PDF document, Google will now have a go at running an OCR service over the document, extracting the text, indexing it and making it searchable. Which means you can just scan and post, flag the content to the Googlebot via a sitemap, and then search into the OCR’d content; (I’m not sure if the OCR service is built on top of the Tesseract OCR code?)
  • barely three months ago, Youtube added the ability to augment videos with captions. With a little bit of glue, the Google translate service will take those captions and translate them into another language for you (Auto Translate Now Available For Videos With Captions):

    “To get a translation for your preferred language, move the mouse over the bottom-right arrow, and then over the small triangle next to the CC (or subtitle) icon, to see the captions menu. Click on the “Translate…” button and then you will be given a choice of many different languages.” [Youtube blog]

Another (mis)quote, this time from Arthur C. Clarke: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. And by magic, I guess one thing we mean is that there is no “obvious” causal relationship between the casting of a spell and the effect? And a second thing is that if we believe something to be possible, then it probably is possible.

I think I’m starting to believe in magic…

PS Google finally got round to making their alerts service feed a feed: Feed me! Google Alerts not just for email anymore, so now you can subscribe to an alerts RSS feed, rather than having to receive alerts via email. If you want to receive the updates via Twitter, just paste the feed URL into a service like Twitterfeed or f33d.in.

PPS I guess I should have listed this in the list above – news that Google has (at least in the US) found a way of opening up its book search data: Google pays small change to open every book in the world. Here’s the blog announcement: New chapter for Google Book Search: “With this agreement, in-copyright, out-of-print books will now be available for readers in the U.S. to search, preview and buy online — something that was simply unavailable to date. Most of these books are difficult, if not impossible, to find.”

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

6 thoughts on “The Future of Search Is Already Here”

  1. Pondering how services like Shazam might actually work, I was tipped off to the phrases “content based identification” and “digital fingerprinting”, and the rather wonderful MPEG 7 standard ( http://www.chiariglione.org/mpeg/standards/mpeg-7/mpeg-7.htm ), aka the “Multimedia Content Description Interface”, which “provides a rich set of standardized tools to describe multimedia content.” i.e. metadata ;-)

    One to put on the “to read” list, I think… ;-)

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