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Google Instant makes search interactive (photos)

Web search giant unveils Google Instant, which serves up predictive search results as you type.

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James Martin

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Google doodle

As we expected, Monday and Tuesday's playful Google doodles were teasers for showing off a bit of the technology behind Wednesday's announcement of Google Instant, the new interactive search results.
The doodle's animated elements showed off color changes and movement that reacted to movement of the cursor, and with Wednesday's announcement at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, we are seeing just how constant this change really is.
Speaking to a theater full of press, swooping visuals and ambient sounds, Marissa Mayer showed us the next big thing in search. We have real time, we have relevant results, and now, we have predictive queries.
It's "as you type, not after you type," said Mayer. Google knows what you want before you want it, all part of an intuitive search that cuts down on time and typing, a smarter search that Sergey Brin called a step toward making Google the "third half of your brain."
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Marissa Mayer

Google VP of search Marissa Mayer on stage at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday. Mayer said Google makes almost constant changes to the Google UI, having released hundreds of new updates already in 2010.
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Today's introduction to Google Instant

Highlighting some of the bigger products launched by Google this year, Mayer mentioned Caffeine, which has resulted in a much faster indexing of search.
Real-time results and on-the-fly spelling correction are other products Mayer touched on in its introduction of Google Instant.
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Google Instant

Google Instant searches "as you type, not after you type," said Marissa Mayer, showing off the new predictive search methods that will try to find what you're searching for before you finish typing.
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Search time

The work Google does in delivering results to a query is very quick, around 400 milliseconds of networking time to send the query and result, Mayer said, but the overall search experience is much longer.
The average search contains 20 characters, and it typically takes about nine seconds to enter that query with the keyboard, in addition to the time needed for the user to select a result.
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Search before you type

Scrolling down through the Google Suggest search results that drop down from the query bar instantaneously changes the search results page.
Instead of selecting the suggestions with 'Enter,' simply scrolling through the suggestions with the arrow keys populates the results with changing answers.
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Google, constant change

Mayer said that Google user experience changes often, but that Google Instant signals a fundamental shift in the direction of the future of search.
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Press conference, or time machine?

In the theater at the SFMOMA prior to the start of Wednesday's press conference unveiling Google Instant. Flowing soundscapes and streaking bands of light hinted at something from the future, maybe 2010: A Search Odyssey?
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Search suggestions

Mayer said that Google Instant search suggestions will help users save two to five seconds per query, or 11 hours for every passing second worldwide.
Looking for information on this summer's popular book "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"? By simply entering "the girl" you will get results returned suggesting the book "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo." There's no need to continue typing the entire title.
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US, UK, France, Germany, Spain

Google Instant will roll out to the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain and a few more countries later Wednesday, and worldwide very soon.
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Google Instant running on a mobile phone

In a sneak preview of things to come, Google showed off the beta version of Google Instant running on a mobile phone. In a demo in the lobby after the presentation, I was able to see how the mobile experience of Google Instant might be even more useful, in an environment where typing is slower and more complicated.
They are demonstrating it on the Droid 2, but it was just a browser-based feature, so this may work for everyone, or at least those with Webkit browsers.
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Remembering preferences

The new changes incorporated into Google Instant will also remember what you've searched for. If you've search for dogs many times in the past, entering "king charles" into the query will generate results for that breed of dog, not any former kings of England.
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Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer, Google's VP of search, on stage at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday while unveiling Google Instant.
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Eye tracking

Google said it did extensive testing on the Instant search results. Early versions were distracting, with too much content jumping around the screen.
Here we can see a visualization of eye-tracking equipment Google used to understand how people move about the page during a search experience.
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Q&A

Some of the team that worked on Google Instant on stage for a question and answer session Wednesday, from left to right, (unknown), Othar Hansson, Marissa Mayer, Ben Gomes, Johanna Wright, Sergey Brin, and Udi Manber.
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Sergey Brin

Sergey Brin answers questions in the lobby of the SFMoMA on Wednesday following the unveiling of Google Instant.

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