Google is unveiling Gesture Search, which allows users to search through their Google Android smartphones via tracing a letter on the screen. The application represents yet another variant on mobile search, which has become a more active field of endeavor for companies such as Google, Microsoft and Apple as smartphones proliferate among both businesses and consumers.
Gesture Search, announced March 3, can only be used on devices running Android 2.0 or higher, which restricts the number of devices that have access to it. Google’s own branded phone, the Nexus One, relies on Android 2.1, and similarly versioned devices from HTC and other manufacturers are expected to enter the ecosystem throughout 2010. The bricklike Motorola Droid will also reportedly be upgraded to Android 2.1 at some point in the near future.
The application allows users to search for contacts, applications, bookmarks, songs and other items.
“Say you want to call your friend Anne,” Yang Li, a Google research scientist wrote in a March 3 posting on the Official Google Mobile Blog. “Just open Gesture Search and draw letter ‘A,’ and Gesture Search returns a list of items that have words starting with ‘A.’ If your handwriting isn’t all that neat, that’s okay.”
Should one’s handwriting be so atrocious that the application has a hard time deciding whether that letter is, for example, an “A” or an “H,” results from both letters will be displayed onscreen. Swiping a finger horizontally through the query will erase it.
The application is available for download from Android Market, and supports only English at the moment. According to Li, Gesture Search also “improves search quality by learning from your search history, so Anne’s contact info will jump to the top of the list the next time you write ‘A.'”
Google has been expanding the number of applications available for Android, including Google Earth, which lets users see satellite and 3D views of terrain virtually anywhere on the planet. Similar to Gesture Search, Google Earth is available for devices running Android 2.1 and can be downloaded from Android Market. Users will also be able to utilize the smartphone operating system’s voice-recognition abilities within Earth for Android to search for locations.
Google seems to be taking a more aggressive competitive stance versus other companies in the smartphone space, including Apple and Microsoft, by focusing a major part of its resources on mobile search and applications. Google’s Nexus One smartphone, launched Jan. 5, was meant to give the company a branded launching pad for those initiatives.