Google Talk Guru turns IM into a search tool

A new app from Google Labs dubbed Talk Guru lets you search for information by chatting with an automated bot programmed to deliver the answers you seek.

Google Talk Guru
Google Talk Guru in action. Google

Always looking for new ways to deliver its search results, Google has rolled out a new app that combines instant messaging with search.

Launched today as the latest experiment in the Google Labs playground, Google Talk Guru offers you a chat session through which you can ask certain questions and receive responses from an automated bot set up on the back end.

For now, the app can handle only certain types of questions from among a limited number of categories, such as weather, sports scores, math equations, definitions, and translations. But like other Google Labs apps, it's something to try out and could eventually develop into something bigger and better.

To use Talk Guru, you'll need a chat client that supports Google Talk. You then have to invite yourself to chat with the guru. In return, you'll receive the invite in your Google Talk contacts list, which you accept to start chatting. Following the list of acceptable categories, you then type a question or query to see if the bot can come up with the right response.

For example, typing the phrase "weather New York" showed me the current NYC weather, temperature, and outlook for the next couple of days. Entering the phrase "define Marx Brothers" returned the definition of "a family of United States comedians consisting of four brothers with an anarchic sense of humor." And typing "translate amour from French to English" told me that "amour" means "love" in English.

If you get stuck, typing the word "help" returns a list of the available categories. Typing help followed by the name of a category tells you how to phrase your query.

Google Talk Guru is hardly the first app to try to combine IM with search. Aardvark was an attempt to do the same. But instead of relying on an automated bot, it tapped into your friends list to see if a real person would answer specific queries. Google ended up buying Aardvark more than a year ago.

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