Google CEO Schmidt Pitches Autonomous Search, Flirts with AI

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said at TechCrunch Disrupt that the search engine's next step is "autonomous search," bringing information to users instead of making them seek it.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said the symbiotic relationship between humans and computers is driving the search engine to work on autonomous search, where users receive search suggestions on their mobile phone without having to type any queries.

Schmidt, speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco Sept. 28, said that while the Google Instant predictive search technology helps shave an average of 2 seconds off users' queries, the next step is "autonomous search."

This means Google will conduct searches for users without them having to manually conduct searches. As an example, Schmidt said he could be walking down the streets of San Francisco and receive information about the places around him on his mobile phone without having to click any buttons.

"Think of it as a serendipity engine," Schmidt said. "Think of it as a new way of thinking about traditional text search where you don't even have to type."

Schmidt said the technology sector is moving toward building an "augmented version of humanity," to get computers to help people do things that they're not good at while also helping computers do things that they're not good at.

In other words, the door swings both ways for humans and computers. Today, Google provides search suggestions to the computer.

In the near feature, Schmidt said, Google's search engine will interpret a query such as "What's the weather like?" to mean that a searcher wants to know whether or not he needs to wear a raincoat or water the plants.

"With improvements in algorithms, more information, with your permission and so forth, we can get closer to answer the question that you really asked," Schmidt revealed.

With such personal search on the way, Google will have to be very careful about how it positions and preserves consumer privacy. This sort of semantic search is one of many Google baby steps toward the artificial intelligence system Google so desperately wants to realize.

To get there, Google has two primary vehicles: the mobile Web-smartphones in particular-and cloud computing.