11 . 11 . 14

Industry News – Round-Up #2

Last month we’ve looked at some of the most interesting stories showing up in the media, similarly here’s what you might have missed in the past weeks. As always, there’s a small bias towards all things search-related, so let’s start with some updates from the major search engines.

Video games in Knowledge Graph

In late September, Google introduced more types of structured snippets on the results pages, as well as started including information about fictional characters in Knowledge Graph, the box on the right hand side of the links.

In October, the search engine’s capabilities have been extended to display facts about video games in the Knowledge Graph filed, including user ratings, supported platforms, the publisher, release dates and more. Thanks to the “People also search for” information, it can be used as a simple recommendations engine. This seems to be a logical progression in the development of the Knowledge Graph, as a very similar feature has been available for films for a while now.

Below you can see the comparison of Knowledge Graph for video game and films as displayed on a mobile phone.

Comparison of Knowledge Graph results for video games and films

Amazon quietly enters the voice search market

In a short video Amazon presented Echo (parody videos followed shortly), a connected device designed for the home, which uses a microphone to return information based on a query beginning with a “hot word”.  The device has received mixed reactions, some called from “creepy” to “not very useful”. Few are enthusiastic about it.

It’s understandable how an always on microphone at home mighty make people uncomfortable, on the other hand it feels like there isn’t anything new Amazon has to offer – Google Now and Siri already have very similar features. It’s clear that Amazon wants the end user to buy more products and another device in your home (just like the Kindle, or Fire tablet) will enable you to do so, removing some of the barriers. It’s not a coincidence that one of the demonstrated features is a shopping list!

Amazon Echo's features

Search by emoji on Bing

Microsoft’s Bing has taken a different approach to innovation in search by announcing support for searching by emoji. Accordign to Redmind this is a response to the increase of their use of mobile devices, and emoji in texting.

While the feature can be useful in case you want to look up the meaning of a less popular or obvious  emoji, but Bing also suggests that you can combine emoji and words presumably for faster searching.

It’s an refreshing feature as none of the dominant search engines offer comparable functionality (Google Chrome even fails to display them correctly), but how useful is it going to be? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Bing results for search with emoji

The “right to be remembered”

Over the past months we have discussed numerous stories relating to EU’s Data Protection Directive, commonly refereed to as “the right to be forgotten”, allowing people to ask Google to remove some types of information relating to them from the search index.

In an attempt to fight this David Jordan, editorial policy head of the BBC, announced that the company will begin publishing the list of removed URLs it has been notified about by the search engine. So far 46 BBC articles have been affected.

At the moment individuals who want data about them to be deleted from Google need to fill in a simple form, and include the URLs, upload their photo ID, and explain why the content should be removed.

Tracking mobile Usability in Google Webmaster Tools

Even though more and more of us use mobile devices, too often sites provide visitors with poor user experiences on phones. If you have Google Webmaster Tools enabled on your site, thanks to the recently introduced features  you’ll be able to get a rough idea on where you might want to make some improvements.

For now Webmaster Tools will report on the following issues: flash content, missing viewport and viewport not working correctly, small font sizes, and clickable areas too close to each other.

Google Webmaster Tools - Mobile Usability

Webmaster tools also provides you with links to solutions to these common problems, so you can make sure that your website is accessible to your visitors across all devices. Find out more about improving mobile usability on the Official Google Webmaster Central blog.

NoPhone attempts to free you from your smartphone

A group of friends from the United States and Netherlands 3D printed a non-functional model of a mobile phone and called it “NoPhone” to comment on problem of smartphone addition . The project managed to attract significant attention, and people started asking if they could purchase one of the non-phones. The team behind the project raised more than $18,000 on KickStarter to fund the production of the phone shaped blocks of resin. The group explain heir motives in more detail on their site

“The idea of the NoPhone spawned from a night at a bar where we regularly hang out and socialize. And by “socialize”, we mean stare at our phones and occasionally look up from our screens to order another round, which is the norm nowadays.

We see it everywhere. Couples on dates illuminated not by candles, but by glowing screens. Concerts where you can only see the performer through the attempted videography of the people standing in front of you. We’re so addicted, just the feeling of a phone in our hands is comforting. So we decided to create the NoPhone; a satirical security blanket of sorts, meant to comment on our present addiction to technology. However, after we created the project, the response from people actually wanting to purchase the NoPhone was overwhelming.”

NoPhone on a wooden table

The NoPhone can be purchased for $12, and it is estimated to be delivered in December 2014. Just in time for Christmas? Alternatively, Wired offers some handy tips on how to reduce your phone separation anxiety.

Wearable technology for dogs

If you want to measure your health or progress towards a fitness goal there’s a plethora of clever solutions to choose from: GPS watches, smart pedometers, connected bathroom scales, and a multitude of smartphones apps to choose from, including the recently announced Google Fit.

But what if you’re… a dog?

Dr David Roberts, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University has developed a canine harness which will not only allow to monitor the dogs vital signs, emotional state, environmental factors  and location, but also improve the communication between the dog and the handler. Although the device is at prototype stage, the researchers are working on a miniaturised version for search and rescue operations and more. It good to see that wearable technology is going beyond fitness tracking, and can be used not only to improve human but also canine lives.

A Dog and Dr Roberts from NC State University

Google’s new email sorting system

After the company unscucesfully “reinvented” email with Google Wave, I was sceptical to hear about Inbox. This time the focus is not so much on collaboration, but more on highlighting and grouping the messages which matter, and making sure it works well on mobile phones. It’s also supposed to integrate task list functionality, which has been traditionally shared between GMail and Google Calendar, as well as reminders and alerts. For now, tt looks like an improved version of the Priority Inbox.

At the moment Inbox isn’t available to the public, but you can email to register your interest and keep your fingers crossed while waiting for an invitation. In the meantime, have a look at the demo video below.

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Sav SzymuraSav Szymura (BA Hons Business and Psychology) is an Analyst at twentysix search. With over 4 years of agency experience he delivers practical and effective search engine optimisation solutions. Away from the office he enjoys trail running, cycling, and all things science fiction. Sav can be also found on Twitter.

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