OK Google: Voice search next frontier for Google as it looks beyond the link list mentality

"OK Google". That's a phrase that Google wants you to memorise and get used to saying, saying a lot.

It's not a question, it's a statement, and something that Google will be pushing you to do from now on. The search giant is not just getting into voice search, it's been doing that for a while now, but it will also be trying to focus efforts on convincing people that by talking to your phone, tablet or laptop, you'll get more from the search engine.

This shift in how we use Google became apparent after a visit to an Open House event in central London where Google was keen to show off how the company's products and services could be used in a variety of different rooms in your house and beyond.

There was the kitchen where - aside from using YouTube videos to learn how to bake the perfect cakes - a voice-instructed Google means you don't have to get grease or ingredients all over your phone or tablet while cooking. Then there was the lounge where we'll be using Chromecast - the kind of replacement for Google's kind-of-failed Google TV product - to find out who's in what.

"What's Cillian Murphy in?" bleated the hip-looking demo dude, pretending to care and keen to impress Pocket-lint. Having got that information, the demo dude continued to probe further "Who's his wife?" "What's his age?"

All important information if you've got a fetish for the actor and one that saves you having to fire up Amazon-owned IMDB, but notice our demo dude didn't have to say Cillian Murphy's name over and over again. It just knows.

In the world of Google this is called "conversational search", remember it, it's going to be the next buzzword.

That's a new term coined by the search giant and one that it will be pushing for the foreseeable future. It hopes that it will convince you not to listen to Microsoft with Bing, or Apple with Siri.

The idea is that Google can, from the first question you ask it, work out when you ask a second or third question, what you were talking about previously. It's certainly clever stuff.

Ask it who the Queen is, for example, and you can then ask who her children are and when she came to the throne without having to spell it all out every time.

As another hipster demo dude at the Open House told us, if you were having a conversation with someone, you aren't going to keep saying the name of the person you are talking to every time.

Where all this fits into place is that it comes as Google push out a new version of Android, Android 4.4 KitKat, a new iPhone and iPad app, and expands the reach of the Google Glass Explorer initiative.

In all cases you simply have to say "Ok Google" to start a search, without pressing any buttons.

Back to our Open House and we've moved on from the living room and into a student bedroom complete with Monster Munch and Haribo. The voice searches continue. In fact every room we go into, Google is keen to tell us that voice search is the future, and that conversational search is going to help that.

For many users they will be right. In the numerous demos in numerous rooms, with numerous accents, the Google voice search works, and works almost every time. If you can stand to talk to your phone, tablet, laptop like you are some captain of industry, you'll find your new calling with ease.

Across an hour we found out about the Queen, the weather in Zurich, tagged a Regina Spektor track using Google Glass's new music listening feature, visited art galleries, watched YouTube videos on cooking, and even had a conversation in German in a fake German cafe even though we don't speak German.

All the time using just voice, all the time never typing a word. It's as Elijah Wood says in Back To the Future 2: "You mean you have to use your hands, that's like a baby's toy."

Of course it's not perfect. A search for the weather in Switzerland told us the weather in Thailand at one point, while other search results failed because it didn't understand what we were saying clearly, or someone else talked at the same time. We also had to be connected to the internet for it to work, something our Open House clearly didn't have to worry about, but on a patchy connection in the Home Counties you might have to.

So how long before our phone truly does become our personal assistant? It seems it's still some way off, but Google is working on it, even if its official spokesmen are reluctant to give answers.

The ultimate goal is of course to know the answer to your questions, answers that are formed from building a rapport with you over time.

Asking Google, Siri or Bing what your favourite colour is, is likely to end with a result that you are not happy with currently, but what if in the future you could ask Google to pick out some clothes suggestions if it already knew your favourite colour because you had discussed it in a previous conversation? That's a different matter. A somewhat scary one, but one that is likely to exist in the not too distant future.

What's clear from our insight, no matter now "staged" it was at the Open House (they had all been drinking a tad too much coffee and eating a tad too many Haribo), is that Google search in the future is going to be more about scanning the internet to bring you a straight answer straight away, than scanning it to deliver a list of links for you to disappointed you.

For many people that can't happen quick enough.



>