Google Adds Natural Language Processing Capabilities to Drive

Users can now search for content on Google Drive just the same as they do with Google Search.

Google Drive

Internet search engines have for some time now let people use conversational language and terms to search for things online. That same feature is now available to users of Google Drive.

Starting this week, users will be able to search for files and content stored in Google Drive just as they would when using Google Search courtesy new support for natural language processing built into Drive.

"Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a fancy way of saying 'search like you talk,'" Josh Smith, Google's product manager for Drive, explained in a blog post on the company's official Google Drive Blog.

The feature makes it much simpler for users to find what they are looking for using queries that are phrased normally and as they would be used in an actual conversation.

For example, to search for a specific spreadsheet or a slide presentation, all that a user would need to do is type "find my spreadsheet from last December" or "show me presentations from the budget meeting," Smith said.

Drive now has the ability to interpret and understand what the queries mean and will give users the option to click on the result they want. Importantly, Drive also has the ability to learn and improve the quality of the content that it returns with each search query, the Google manager claimed.

Google uses NLP extensively in areas such as online and mobile search and in mobile apps, as well as in services like Google Translate. The company's research in this area is part of a much broader effort by Google to improve the ability of machines to read and understand human language.

Earlier this year, for instance, Google released an open-source technology called SyntaxNet that it claims will give developers the ability to incorporate more natural language understanding (NLU) capabilities in their systems. Also earlier this year, the company released beta versions of a new Google Cloud Natural Language Application Programming Interface (API) and a Cloud Speech API.

The Natural Language API is designed to give developers a way to implement capabilities in their products for understanding the structure and meaning of text in multiple languages starting with English, Japanese and Spanish. The technology enables capabilities like sentiment analysis for understanding the true context of written or spoken words and syntax analysis for identifying parts of speech, according to Google. The Speech API, meanwhile, gives developers access to technology for converting speech to text in some 80 languages.

In addition to the new support for NLP, Google this week said it has also added a handful of relatively minor, but popular features in Google Docs to Drive.

One of them is an auto-correct feature that corrects spelling errors and provides suggestions for correcting misspelled search terms. Another feature that has been added to Drive from Google Docs allows users to split documents into multiple columns.

The new features in Drive have begun rolling out this week and will become gradually available to users worldwide over the next several weeks, Smith said.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.