Exploring Google’s Search Generative Experience

If there was ever a company that truly needed no introduction, it would be Google. From relatively humble beginnings in the 1990s, Google quickly skyrocketed to become one of the most popular and widely-used search engines in the world, and then overtook all of its competitors, becoming one of the few companies that can lay claim to having its name used as a verb (i.e. “I’ll Google it”).

With Google’s dominance firmly established, many experiments followed. Some were successful and some weren’t; the Google Graveyard can serve as testament to that. Google’s latest experiment involves AI, as you might expect, since it’s one of the most promising (and controversial) advancements in technology in recent years. The new SGE, or Search Generative Experience, claims to enhance your search results and give you what you’re looking for more quickly, but what exactly is it? Let’s take a look at SGE and what it might mean for Google Search.

SGE: a beginner’s guide

As per Google’s own rundown of SGE, it’s intended to take “more of the work out of searching” so that you can find the results you’re looking for more quickly. Google gives the example of the question “what’s better for a family with kids under 3 and a dog, Bryce Canyon or Arches?”. 

Typically, a question like this would need to be broken down into constituent parts so that you could build an answer for yourself. However, according to Google, SGE will be able to take a question such as this one and answer it all at once, giving you a preliminary slate of information that you can base your decision on before going into further detail.

First, you’ll see “an AI-powered snapshot of key information” that you can consider, complete with links that you can follow if you want to know more. As well as the links, you’ll also be shown followup questions that you can ask; in Google’s example, these questions include “how long to spend at Bryce Canyon with kids?” and “how many days do you need in Arches National Park for kids?”. Of course, you can imagine your own results being there instead.

You might be wondering whether SGE is the same thing as Google Bard. While there’s a good chance it’s the same underlying tech powering both Bard and SGE, this is a different beast; where Bard is a chatbot that’s intended for creative work and conversation, SGE is basically an AI module for Google Search that’s designed to slot into the service and help you to find more accurate results more quickly.

SGE and shopping

Next, Google goes into some detail regarding SGE and what it’s intended to do for shopping experiences. SGE uses the Google Shopping Graph, an aggregate of some 35 billion products around the web, in order to compile a database of useful items and links whenever you search for a particular product.

In its example, Google shows a user searching for bikes. The user is shown a number of different options, each of which has a short passage of text next to it that describes where the bike is most useful. You can also see reviews of each bike to help you make a more informed decision. In short, SGE is supposed to provide a more detailed, more analytically-minded set of search results when you’re looking for ecommerce items.

SGE and responsibility

One of the biggest debates surrounding AI right now is whether or not it’s actually a force for good in terms of the long-term future of the human race. There are a number of different perspectives on this issue; some consider AI to be a problem that needs to be solved, while others see the potential benefits and think that those who are warning against widespread AI use are fearmongering.

Google says that when it comes to SGE, it’s committed to maintaining a responsible approach to AI and the problems it potentially brings. The company says that it wants to continue the work it’s doing with its Perspectives initiative, thus driving more traffic to different sources of information and diverse perspectives around the internet. Additionally, ads will continue to appear in SGE, but Google says it will “uphold [its] commitment to ads transparency” and making sure you know the difference between ads and results.

If you want to know more about Google’s approach to responsibility when it comes to SGE, then we’d recommend checking out the (fairly lengthy, but very important) outline of SGE and what it might mean for the search experience that Google has provided. That document contains lots more in-depth information about SGE.

When can you use SGE?

Right now, Google is in the early stages of rolling out SGE to users who want to test it out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Google is accepting any users outside the US, so unless that’s where you live, you’re going to have to wait a little longer for your chance to try out SGE.

If you are a US resident, then you can head over to Google’s Search Labs page to express your interest in trying out SGE. You’ll be added to a waitlist, so it could still be a little while before you get to try out what Search Labs has to offer, but eventually, you’ll hopefully be accepted into the program and you can give Search Labs a go.

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