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Google Now update brings boarding passes, song ID, more

New cards available in the predictive search engine will make holiday travel a bit easier, Google says.

New cards in the updated Google Now.
New cards in the updated Google Now.

Google Now, the predictive search available to users of the latest versions of Android, received a significant upgrade today, with new features focused on making travel easier.

On your way to the airport for a holiday visit to a relative? Google Now will tell you the weather at your destination. Once you arrive at the airport, Google Now will pull up your boarding pass -- as long as you're flying on United Airlines, anyway. (Google says more airlines are coming.) And once you've landed, Google Now will suggest possible activities, local Web sites, and provide other sources of things to do.

Google points out that these new "cards," as it calls components of the Now service, come in addition to some earlier travel-friendly features: currency conversion, translation, and flight status among them.

Voice search also got an update; you can ask "What's this song?" and Google will attempt to identify it, or say "Scan this barcode" and have Google look up product information using the camera on your phone or tablet. You can also post an update to Google+ with your voice.

By themselves, the features amount to little more than a stocking stuffer for holiday travelers. But they show how serious Google is becoming about getting predictive search right -- answering your questions before you even ask them. It's an advantage Google has over other device makers at the moment, and today's update shows that the company is pressing it.