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Google Squared is an Exponential Improvement in Search

One of the things I’ve learned about Google is that the most amazing things will come out of them with barely a whisper of fanfare. Such is the case with Google Squared, a new Google Labs tool that was released today. What does Google Squared do? It organizes and tables information from searches for you in a way that makes it much more useful.

For example, the first thing I put into Google Squared was [science fiction conventions], and I got back:
Picture 5.png

Not too bad right off the bat, and by clicking on the X boxes, you can remove columns or rows that don’t fit. It works even better for things that are very well defined, like [atomic weights of elements]:
Picture 6.png

You can also add new columns and add searches to existing tables. So, for example, we can start with [2009 movie gross], which starts out as:
Picture 7.png

Notice that G^2 isn’t perfect, it isn’t actually giving me the grosses as a column, and I’m getting movies from all years. So, let’s add [year] and [gross] as columns, and X out country and language, ending up with:
Picture 8.png

Now, here’s where Google can add some features. I’d like to be able to filter columns, so I could say “Only rows where the year column is 2009.” Sorting would be nice too. And at least a “Save as CSV” button. I’m also not sure exactly how the “Add to This Square” button works.

You can also start from a blank square and add rows and colums, so I can start by putting items in the rows, like [Up], [angels and demons], etc, and then adding gross as a column:
Picture 9.png

If you don’t like the value that Google Squared put into a cell, you can click on the cell and you’ll be offered alternative values:
Picture 10.png

And finally, if you’re logged into your Google account, you can save a square you’ve been working on.

This is a pretty huge new toy we’ve been given. It offers a lot of the same value that Wolfram Alpha claims to, presenting searches in more categorized fashion, but improves on Wolfram by letting you tweak the results and save them. Add some sorting, filtering and exporting, and this could become the next great report-writer!

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  • http://pressplaysolutions.com CW

    This seems like a really powerful addition. It will be interesting to see how it develops, since it’s just a lab right now.

    PressPlaySolutions

  • http://noodlegei.blogspot.com/ NoodleGei

    @James
    “I’m also not sure exactly how the “Add to This Square” button works.”

    This is the answer:
    “Instead of adding items one by one, use the search box and the Add to this Square button at the top of the page to append new search results, e.g. [ Disneyland roller coasters ], to the bottom of your existing Square. “

    Source:
    http://www.google.com/support/faqs/bin/answer.py?answer=139211

  • Mike

    Great development and thanks for the info

  • http://hymnos.existenz.ch christian

    Re: CSV: Yeah, I wonder too why there’s no export. I imagine a ‘transfer this to Google Spreadsheets’-button will follow some time.

  • http://vzach.de/blog/ Valentin

    The first link in your article is broken; its clearly supposed to be http://www.google.com/squared but it is “http://”

    cu

  • David Reiss

    I think that the comparison with Wolfram|Alpha is not really correct. This is the same error that is made in a variety of reports. Google Squared is a filter and presentation layer on the results from Google’s conventional web crawling. Wolfram|Alpha computes results based on access to algorithms specified in Mathematica and material in vetted curated databases.

    These two can live side-by-side: I think that they are, and will continue to be, complementary technologies.

  • http://www.peppertop.com/blog/ MarkC

    As well as filtering and sorting, I’d like to see some of the results being normalised. For example a column labelled “Weight” can contain values in lbs, kg, g and so on. Given that Google already has conversion algorithms in the normal search, it would be great to see mixed units like these also shown as a converted normalised form – so all in kg, for example.

    This would make any future filtering and sorting work much more effectively.

  • http://shore.com John Blossom

    I find Google Squared to be interesting, but very much a Labs toy rather than a usable product. It seems to be in a way in the same boat as Wolfram Alpha, able to return some interesting results at times but still very raw. Even on the suggested “planets” query the text returned on “Venus” is completely off the mark for the actual planet. Try Mercury as a square and you get even more off-the-mark results. Good idea, may evolve into more useful improvements, but keep trying, Google.

  • http://www.itechart.com/Pages/Subsections/SharePointDevelopment.aspx Robin

    We a living through a search boom, friends. Wolfram Alpha, a bunch of innovations by google, including Squared, Bing with its Easter eggs images… That’s getting really interesting.

  • JW

    If you try “dictators” you get a helpful column showing each dictator’s “Homeworld”.

    Seems Emporer Palpatine is from “Neboo”, but “No value found” for Adolph Hitler.

  • JJ

    The results can be quite entertaining when words have multiple meanings. Example: I search for “Color.” One of the default columns is “appearance.” Next to “Turquoise,” the appearance is “Opaque, often veined.” It’s describing the mineral, not the color. “Violet” is even better: it lists “The Bad Beginning,” which is the first appearance of the *character* of Violet Baudelaire.

    Google needs to learn the difference between a color and a fictional character.

    Also, the first 18 results for “color” include “umber” and “sepia,” but not “red” or “blue.” So maybe results should be ranked by some sort of popularity metric…

  • Chuck

    This tool is interesting, but exposes much of the danger of trusting information returned from Google, etc.

    I entered “boeing aircraft”, then added the column “wingspan”. Many of the results returned were absurd – wings as short as 10.5 inches.

    Most likely the search was pulling up descriptions of model planes mixed in with information about the real planes.

    I see a real danger in people (especially students) substituting this tool for real research. At least with the Wolfram site, the data appears to be better filtered. I entered “boeing aircraft” on that site, and got a good list of representative aircraft. When I expanded the search with “wingspan” I got a great analysis of the various wingspans of boeing planes.

    Note that I am not affiliated with wolfram in any way. I’ll also note that most of the queries in the article returned nothing interesting from wolfram. (But I’ll also note that the queries returned nothing much interesting from G^2 either…)

  • http://grok2.com/blog Grok2

    A little too much hyperbole perhaps? Google Squared sucks more than WolframAlpha. Atleast the information returned by Alpha is more useful than the incomplete jumble returned by Google Squared.

  • http://blog.lakehome.com Brainerd Lake lady

    This will be great exporting the data. I could see it being useful for database creating and also some SEO purposes. I wouldn’t use it as an everyday feature though.

  • LH

    Hyperbole definitely.
    This is just a toy. To be really useful the information has to be better. If you have to filter the junk out yourself, what is the point?

  • VM

    A great step towards making world’s information computable like the new search engine – WolframAlpha (http://www.WolframAlpha.com)

  • http://ouseful.info Tony Hirst

    But you can of course recreate a large part of the Google Squared compound query functionality (and specify your own data sources to boot) using Google spredsheets.

    For example:

    Using Google Spreadsheets and Viz API Queries to Roll Your Own Data Rich Version of Google Squared on Steroids (Almost…) [ http://ouseful.wordpress.com/2009/06/05/using-google-spreadsheets-and-viz-api-queries-to-roll-your-own-data-rich-version-of-google-squared-on-steroids-almost/ ]

  • TJ

    If you want to present data in a structured format, it helps if your data are structured to begin with. The web writ large is not structured – thus the wacky results mentioned by e.g. JJ and Chuck.

  • Nair Satheesh

    Google Squared appears to be similar to my patent application:

    Frankly, I am getting a Déjà vu effect while going through the “Google Squared” application because it appears to be very similar in function to my United States patent application which was filed on April 12, 2007 and as publicly disclosed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on October 16, 2008, when the patent application was published.

    My patent application is titled as “Method And System For Research Using Computer Based Simultaneous Comparison And Contrasting Of A Multiplicity Of Subjects Having Specific Attributes Within Specific Contexts” bearing Document Number “20080256023” and Inventor name “Nair Satheesh” which may be viewed at http://patft.uspto.gov/ upon Patent Applications: Quick Search.

    Google Squared appears to be using at least some if not many of the same methods and systems as set forth by me more than two years ago in my patent application. In fact there are many more methods and systems disclosed in my patent application which I believe will help resolve certain inaccuracies found in current Google Squared application.

    I have issued legal notices to Google through my Patent Attorney in the US but Google has not responded yet to any of my notices.