Many people these days use the well known Google search engine on a daily basis for finding things on the world-wide-web. In recent months, however, Google has extended their search functionality to include much more than just old-fashioned web-searches. In particular, Google has just launched Google Maps, which gives the user an interactive map of all of North America. Satellite imagery can be enabled (see picture below of lower Manhattan Island and Ground Zero), which gives an end result similar to NASA's WorldWind program, which I discussed in a previous post. In addition to imagery, the user can ask for directions from one place to another and be given a complete itinerary and map for the journey.
Another extremely useful search facility, tailored for academics, is Google Scholar, which allows for searching through journals, pre-print archives and many other sources.
Finally, something which I haven't had the opportunity to try for myself, since I'm a mobile phone-less cave-dweller, is Google SMS. This allows for the user to perform searches for businesses, weather forecasts, movie times, product prices, and a multitude of other things using their mobile phones. One particularly novel use which I heard one of the Google co-founders discuss in a recent television interview was the ability to search for product prices within specified geographical constraints. For example, you could dial up the price of a product and be given a list of all the locations within half a mile where that product is sold and what the prices at the respective outlets are. Innovative uses of mobile search technology such as this could potentially have the power, in the long term, to completely revolutionize consumer behaviour and inject a whole new level of competitiveness into markets.
These new search technologies, in my opinion, are perhaps just tip of the iceberg of what is to come. There are countless potential uses for search technology, particular mobile search technology, and it will be very exciting to see what developments arise in the future.