Google's Mayer: Context will make smartphones smarter

Mayer: Making phones smarter
Mayer: Making phones smarter

Google's Marissa Mayer has explained the future of 'contextual search' which should bring together location technology with a host of other tools to make our lives run more efficiently.

In a talk that echoed what Google fellow Amit Singhal told TechRadar last year, Mayer – who moved into the 'Geo' team of Google last year – explained how she envisions mobile search to progress, using your personal context to give you both interesting and useful information to hand.

"When we talk about the future of location and, especially, of mobile technology, this is really about the 'power of here', said Mayer.

"That is what it means to have that device that can say 'this is where I am, please get me some information from the digital world so I can use it in real world."

Augmenting reality

Mayer acknowledged the rise of augmented reality apps like Layer, but believes that Google should look to "go further".

"We can do something that I call contextual discovery," she added. "Contextual discovery is taking a location and a little bit of context and doing things that we couldn't do previously."

After giving an example about identifying a bird, and how knowing where and when you saw it can speed up the process, Mayer gave another real-life instance of contextual search.

"So we are all here in Austin and with a little bit of context - with the user's permission - around whether or not they have been to Austin before you can know whether or not they are an Austin native or whether they are here for the first time.

"If they are here for the first time you'd probably want to know this is the Capital Complex…you can find out the history of the building and what happened here.

"If you are an Austin native and you are near this building you probably want to get your emails, alerts and notices – those kind of things instead.

"So with a little bit of context we can help do searches without people needing to search with a little bit of context and give me things which are interesting and useful to me in that moment."


Meyer believes that the key is utilising the power of smartphones to give people information without them needing to go looking for it.

"How can we make smartphones even smarter in the future?" she asked. "Consider my phone has my calendar, it could know I'm speaking in Austin and suggest some flights to get me here in time on airlines that I like.

"When I book the flight it can create an alert and tell me 'this is the weather in Austin'.

"It has access to traffic and not only can it give me driving instructions - how to get from here to there - it can tell me what the traffic is like when you are trying to get your plane."

"There are already a lot of things that can already be pulled together."

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.