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4 ways Google’s newest AI breakthrough will improve your search results

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Last May, at Google’s I/O developer conference, the company previewed a new AI algorithm it had been working on known as MUM. Short for Multitask Unified Model, the technology built on top of an earlier Google algorithm, BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), which had already given Google’s search a radically more sophisticated understanding of the web pages it pulls together. At I/O, Google said that MUM was 1,000 times more powerful than BERT—and said to stay tuned for more news.

Rather than improving search in any one way, MUM is an ingredient that Google can call on to create a range of new experiences. “What’s really exciting about it is the new things it unlocks,” says VP of Search Liz Reid. “It’s not just that it’s a lot more powerful than BERT. We’ve trained it on 75 different languages, and it has much more of an understanding of connections and concepts.”

Now, at a streaming event called Search On, Google has showed off some of the specific features that MUM is letting it build, some of which are due to arrive in coming weeks and months:

The questions behind the questions. MUM’s deeper understanding of how topics intersect will help Google deliver search results that are likely to contain useful information even when they don’t squarely reflect the words in a query. “You can type in, ‘When do I plant tomatoes in California?'” says Park. “Well, behind that, maybe you’re trying to plant a garden for the first time in California, or it’s your first time planting tomatoes.”

[Animation: courtesy of Google]One topic, many aspects. Google is using MUM to let people begin with a simple search—maybe on a subject they’re just beginning to investigate—and then browse through links to material covering a variety of related areas. For example, MUM has helped the search engine divvy up the broad subject of acrylic painting into more than 350 subtopics, ranging from the tools you can use to do the painting to how to clean up when you’re done. Already, MUM is helping power a more visual search results page for some........

© Fast Company

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