Google Knowledge Graph: The Birth of a Siri Rival?

On the surface, Google’s Knowledge Graph seems like just another search feature, but connect the dots and it could become the brains behind a Siri-like virtual assistant.

In a blog post, Google’s Amit Singhal dropped a strong hint that there’s more to Knowledge Graph than meets the eye:

“We’re proud of our first baby step—the Knowledge Graph—which will enable us to make search more intelligent, moving us closer to the ‘Star Trek computer’ that I’ve always dreamt of building,” Singhal wrote.

Google has used the Star Trek reference before, when discussing its approach to speech recognition in Android. Here’s Matias Duarte, in an interview with Slashgear:

“If [Siri]’s Star Wars, you have these robot personalities like C-3PO who runs around and he tries to do stuff for you, messes up and makes jokes, he’s kind of a comic relief guy. Our approach is more like Star Trek, right, starship Enterprise; every piece of computing surface, everything is voice-aware. It’s not that there’s a personality, it doesn’t have a name, it’s just ‘Computer.’”

Add these comments to the rumors that Google is building a virtual assistant codenamed Majel–named after the wife of late Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry–and it’s easy to speculate where Google is going.

Siri vs. Knowledge Graph

Unlike Android’s existing voice commands, Apple’s Siri understands language. Siri doesn’t need to rely on a rigid set of instructions (such as Android’s “Navigate to” for directions or “Listen to” for music), because it can pick out keywords from naturally-spoken phrases. That makes Apple’s system much more accessible, and Google will have to come up with something similar.

But with Knowledge Graph, Google seems to be thinking one step ahead. With any given set of keywords, Knowledge Graph tries to figure out what users actually want. The engine can figure out the most important facts about a person or place, and bring those details to the surface. When a search term has multiple meanings (such as apple the fruit or Apple the company), Knowledge Graph knows to ask what you meant. As Singal pointed out, the information Google shows for Tom Cruise answers 37 percent of the next queries people ask about him.

Google may have a better system in place for answering questions, if the company can just nail the Siri-like natural language part. Instead of simply showing a page from Yelp or Wolfram Alpha, as Siri does, Google could potentially pull in what it thinks is the most relevant information from around the Web. The company has already developed a version of Knowledge Graph for mobile devices, so the groundwork is already in place.

Of course, this is all just speculation on my part, but given Google’s high-minded thoughts on making search smarter, and the ever-increasing importance of mobile, Knowledge Graph seems likely to play a huge role in Android’s answer to Siri.

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