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Google's conversational search arrives with new Chrome

The company is taking a step closer to natural-language questions and answers and farther from search boxes and hyperlinks.

Google conversational search microphone icon

Google is enabling a more naturally spoken question-and-answer interface to its search service for people with a new version of Chrome.

Google demonstrated conversational search at Google I/O a week ago, a style of search designed to be more like natural human speech than the technically constructed search queries that people often use today to retrieve information from a search engine.

It's all part of the gradual arrival of Google's vision to build a Star Trek-style search engine, in which the computer grasps what people want and answers them. Eventually, expect Google to let people initiate a query by saying, "OK, Google," as with Google Glass voice commands.

It's not clear yet how broadly the service is available. Some reported receiving errors that said "no Internet connection."

Google confirmed the move Wednesday. "Conversational search has started rolling out on Google.com in the latest version of Chrome. You can just click the mic in the search box, ask your question in a natural way, and get spoken answers," the company said in a statement.

Users need to update their Chrome browser to get the new functionality, according to Google.

Google tries to be clever enough to understand that "here" means "the questioner's present location" and that a pronoun could refer to the subject of a previous query. One example: Ask Google "Who did Angelina Jolie marry?" then follow up with "How old is he?"

To see a more elaborate version of the feature in action, check Google's demonstration of conversational search from Google I/O.

Google sometimes delivers the results firsthand, a major departure from search results years ago that typically were located on others' Web pages. The search engine optimization industry grew around this search-driven Web traffic, but it's not clear yet how it'll be changed as Google gives the answers itself.

The conversational search feature requires Chrome 27, which Google released Tuesday.

Updated 8:55 a.m. PT to note that some people report getting error messages while trying to use voice search in Chrome. Updated 1:35 p.m. PT with Google comment.

Via Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land.