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Google Gets Psychic With Google Instant

Who needs to think when Google can do it for you? That seems to be the premise of Google Instant, a "search enhancement" rolled out by Google this morning. The feature, which will be available for all U.S. Google users by the end of the day, instantly shows search results as you type.

There's no need to press return or hit search; Google Instant knows what you're trying to say. Google Instant transcends the physical speed of thinking, creeping eerily close to psychic territory. To put it another way, the feature doesn't search as you type—it searches before you type."It's not quite psychic, but it is very clever," explained Othar Hansson, Software Engineer in Search Quality at Google. 

Typing "BP", for example, yields news on the Gulf oil disaster, Google ads touting BP's cleanup efforts, and the Wikipedia entry for the Deepwater Horizon disaster—all before pressing return. If we continue the query by typing "BPA", Google instantly offers up information on the chemical Bisphenol A.

One important distinction: Google Instant doesn't replace traditional search altogether. Searching for the first three letters of "Google" yields instant results about the search engine, but typing "Goo" and pressing return yields information about goo—not Google.


So why did Google do this? All in the name of efficiency. Google claims that the feature shaves 2 to 5 seconds off the approximately nine seconds it normally takes for someone to type a query. If everyone who uses Google were to start using Google Instant, it could save 3.5 billion seconds each day, or 11 hours every second.

Everyone in the world won't start using Google Instant immediately, of course. The product has yet to roll out internationally, and it won't be available on the browser-based Google search bar for a few months. But eventually, Google's new search feature could do more than just save time—it could lead to mass brain atrophy for a world that no longer has to think about what it's looking for.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.