Google’s New Talk to Books

Sometimes I feel like I am beginning to live in a Science Fiction movie. The speed at which artificial intelligence (AI) is developing and becoming incorporated into our daily lives is accelerating.

Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant are now allowing individuals to have conversations with artificial intelligence. Google has even taken their AI one step further and unveiled a new program: Talk to Books.

This new AI tool provides the ability to search based on semantic (meaning of phrase or sentence) rather than on keywords. Talk to Books allows anyone to search a database of books for information at a sentence level rather than an author or topic level. Using this tool, a user can input a statement or a question and Talk to Books searches over 100,000 books for sentences that best provide a response.

As you may be aware, over the past two decades, Google has digitalized thousands of books with or without the copyright holder’s permission. By integrating their new Talk to Books tool with these digitalized books, Google is providing a powerful search engine to help anyone seeking information to find that information within the pages of these books.

Google already has a book search engine. This search engine, https://books.google.com, allows you to search books by topic, author, or title by typing in text to the search engine. Talk to Books is slightly different. Instead of looking for books by author or topic, it searches within books for passages that are related to the question asked.

For example, if I type into the Google Book Search Engine the name of a bestselling Christian author like Max Lucado, I am rewarded with a list of books that he has authored. However, if I type or speak his name into Talk to Books at https://books.google.com/talktobooks, the results show passages from books that either talk about Max Lucado or quote from one of his books.

Some publishing industry experts believe that this new Talk to Books tool by Google will boost book discoverability. In other words, when individuals use Talk to Books to find information on various issues or topics, they are exposed to passages from books, increasing these books’ discoverability by readers and increasing the likelihood that the individual exposed to these books may make a purchase.

Sadly, Google has implemented a “popularity measure” in Talk to Books. This measure gives a boost to books produced by “professional publishing houses”—sorry Indies.

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Photo courtesy of Piotr Cichosz.

Creating an Augmented Reading Experience

Books have been around in one form or another for thousands of years—ever since man began writing. I believe books will continue into the future, but their form may change.

Originally books were written on stone tablets, then papyrus, then scrolls, until they evolved into the print books we know today. However, book forms have not stopped evolving. We now have digital books and audiobooks.

Google appears to have created a new technology that will bring the print book reading experience into the augmented reality of the 21st Century. Google’s recently patented a new technology called “Storytelling Device” or “Interactive Book”.

This “Storytelling Device” outfits a physical book with numerous page sensors, touch sensors, and motion sensors. Based on the reader’s movements and the story line of the book, the system adds augmented reality elements over the pages.

The augmented reality comes from a small hamburger-shaped device that plugs into an interface over the spine of the book and projects imagery over the pages, while a small speaker adds sound to the experience.

Googles patentOver the years, I have seen many companies come up with ways to integrate books and technology. Most are aimed at children as a way to get them interested and engaged in the reading experience. However, I have yet to see one that actually becomes popular and replaces the act of simply reading a book.

What do you think? Do you think Google’s patent has a potential to reinvent children’s books?

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