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Google patents a way to win a text message argument

  • Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

“Pelé has scored more goals than any other soccer player.”

“No, you’re absolutely wrong.”

“Want to bet?”

“Let me Google it.”

We’ve all been there. With the proliferation of smartphones, arguments tend to last about as long as it takes someone to Google the answer to whatever they’ve been arguing about. Now, however, Google might have found a way to settle such arguments almost instantly.

In a patent awarded May 12, Google outlined a system for getting search results without having to leave a voice, instant message or text message conversation. The patent calls for a piece of software that could be incorporated into a messaging program that would allow users to query Google’s search engine in the same way as responding to the person they’re talking to.

In the example Google provided, users would mention ”FindEZ” within their query. The system would then find the answer and respond within the text stream so both parties could see the answer. This would stop arguments dead in their tracks, though why Google chose to highlight its technology with an argument about Ronald Reagan’s birthplace between two people called “Dude” and “Slammy” is likely beyond the reach of even Google’s artificial intelligence systems.

US Patent and Trademark Office

Google also outlined less aggressive uses for the technology, such as collaborative search. The patent suggests that two people could be talking about booking a vacation to Europe over a VoIP call, and one person asks the system to show the current Euro-Dollar exchange rate. The person says “Superfinder,” which triggers the system to listen for her query, which it then finds the answer to and says to the conversation. The example hints at a cool but potentially creepy idea: an ever-present digital Google servant, listening to every conversation, waiting for the right keyword to make it spring into action.

While there are some services available right now for voice search—like Apple’s Siri and Google’s own “OK Google”—they can’t really be used during a conversation or in a text message. Slack, the enterprise communication software, has a built-in bot called Slackbot that users can ask to remind it of something while they continue to talk to humans, but you can’t ask it anything else.

There’s no guarantee that Google will be adding this service to any of its products any time soon, and a Google spokesperson told Quartz that some patents turn into products, and some don’t. But it would definitely be a welcome addition for anyone with argumentative friends—though they might argue otherwise.

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