Google on Thursday announced a handful of new features for its search engine. One new trick lets people hum an audio recording to try to figure out the song that’s stuck in their heads.
The tech giant will also let people see how busy a park, restaurant or other business is with live updates. A new augmented reality feature on Google search lets people shop for cars and virtually tour them. Google made the announcements during a pretaped online event Thursday.
For the song-finding tool, people can hum or whistle 10 to 15 seconds of a song into their phones to search for the tune. The software uses artificial intelligence to try to match the recording to a database of songs. Google says the feature should work even if the singer is tone-deaf. Other companies including SoundHound already offer similar tools, which work with varying degrees of success.
The announcements come as Google faces intense antitrust scrutiny over its search business. The company processes around 90% of all online searches in the US. That stranglehold is the foundation of Google’s massive advertising business, which generates almost all of the company’s $160 billion in annual sales.
Google has been accused of hurting competitors by prioritizing its own products, like shopping ads or local business listings, over the listings of rivals in its search results. Critics also complain that the tech giant takes content from publishers and other websites and uses that information in prepared answers directly on Google’s search engine, rather than simply providing a list of links that send users away to other sites. The US Department of Justice could file a landmark lawsuit against Google as early as this week.
Google on Thursday also said its AI tools would help people find the correct search results, even if their queries are misspelled. Another new tool lets kids and parents use their phone’s cameras to get homework help. For example, pointing the phone at a quadratic equation from a math workbook would bring up step-by-step guides to solving the problem.
In addition, Google said it’s using its Duplex software to update local business listings with COVID-19 information. The technology automatically calls businesses using AI that sounds eerily human. The software drew controversy after it was unveiled in 2018, over concerns it could fool people who didn’t know they were talking to robots. Google said it’s used Duplex to make more than 3 million updates to business listings this year. The company also said it’s piloting a program that uses Duplex for ordering food.