With little fanfare, Google has added its cool new conversational search feature to Chrome on desktops, following a demonstration last week at Google I/O.
Conversational search is a major upgrade from Google’s previous voice search feature, which merely dictated a search string. You can access it by clicking the microphone icon within the search box of the Google home page and asking a question in plain English (no more tweaking your search strings for a better result). Once Google’s search is complete, you’ll either get a list of results as usual, or get a single card at the top of the screen as well as a pleasant voice answering your query.
The best part of the new search is its awareness of context. Once you start a search, you can continue to have a conversation with Google to refine it. For example, I asked for directions to Atlanta, Georgia, and was able to follow up with questions about its population and weather. Just like talking to a human, you don’t need to keep specifying the query you’re referring to — Google’s conversation search is smart enough to understand that the pronouns you’re using refer to your existing search query.
You’ll need Chrome 27 to access conversational search — you can either update from within the browser as usual, or download it fresh from Google’s website.
If you’ve enabled the Gmail Field Trial for Google Search, which grants search access to data on your other Google services, you can also ask questions about your schedule. Conversational search also knows your location, so simply asking “What’s the weather tomorrow?” pulls up your local forecast.
At this point, it looks like Google is simply testing conversational search out on desktops. As Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan points out, it doesn’t yet support voice activation (simply saying “Okay, Google” to kick off a search, rather than hitting the microphone button). It’s also missing more complete Google Now integration — it doesn’t yet show cards for your packages, for example, and there’s no predictive searching yet.
Photo: I/O livestream