The next generation of search technology

What is certain is that Google Now, which ties deeply into Google's broad network of consumer web products, has an ambitious future ahead of it.

AI guru Ray Kurzweil, who recently joined the company as Director of Engineering, has referred to the future of search engines as a 'cybernetic friend' who is aware of your particular interests and curiosities (well in advance of you), "And, it can then be canvassing all the new information that comes out in the world every minute and then bring things to your attention without you asking about them."


Siri, which is currently available in Beta on select iPhones, iPads and iPod touches, is perhaps not quite as ambitious as Google Now, but it's still a landmark app that popularised the notion of the contemporary intelligent search assistant.

And, when used in conjunction with the iPhone's built-in location-based features, Siri approaches a kind of digital pseudo-awareness that can be quite helpful in the right circumstances.

You can use Siri to make calls, find places, seek directions, access your calendar to make appointments and set reminders, use social media like Facebook and Twitter, locate your friends (via Find My Friends), play music, open apps and more.

If Siri can't natively help with your query (by interpreting your meaning), it will default to a standard web search.

Screenshot of Siri on iPhone 5

Siri, your 'intelligent' search assistant.

Siri can be easily programmed with your personal info (where you live, where you work, which contacts are your family members and so on) to make using it more natural and useful, and to assist with location-based reminders.

Apple might have gone relatively quiet on Siri in recent times, but it's expected that the software could receive a significant new lease on life under the leadership of Eddy Cue, the company's Senior VP of Internet Software and Services, who recently took over from the deposed former iOS chief Scott Forstall (after the Apple Maps debacle exposed the company to widespread criticism and ridicule).

Added perk — Siri is as yet the only intelligent search service that comes bundled with something resembling a sense of humour. Check out this site —

Facebook's new Graph Search is the company's long-awaited entrance into the search space. However, unlike what many tech watchers expected (like say, a social-supported web search engine designed to take on competitors such as Google), Graph Search isn't a traditional search engine used to find information on the web.

Instead, Graph Search offers a new internally focused way of discovering highly specific social information on Facebook via customisable searches of your own personal network.

Whereas most of the information Facebook contains about users and their circles (what the company calls the Graph) has largely only been accessible via browsing and direct navigation up until now, Graph Search adds a powerful new search capacity that lets you filter though the huge amounts of disparate social data most of us now have access to on the service.

Variable search phrases enable you to easily distil specific information that would have been almost impossible to gather together before.

Facebook provides some examples of the kinds of searches now possible on the service via Graph Search, which is currently limited to finding people, photos, places and interests.

  • People from my hometown who like hiking
  • Friends of friends who have been to Yosemite National Park
  • People who like things I like
  • People who like tennis and live nearby
  • Photos I like
  • Photos of my family
  • Photos of my friends before 1999
  • Photos of my friends taken in New York
  • Restaurants in San Francisco
  • Tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends
  • Countries my friends have visited
  • Music my friends like
  • Movies liked by people who like movies I like
  • Languages my friends speak

The first release of Graph Search is in a limited English (US) Beta for now, but Facebook is working towards an international, multi-language release and expanding the search core to other areas beyond people, photos, places and interests.

If you want to be added to the waiting list for updates and to get on Graph Search to try it out as soon as possible, you can sign up at