Google Patent Aims to Use TV as a Signal in its Search Algorithm

shutterstock-135287432Google’s latest patent gaining buzz is one that seems to suggest the search engine will know what television show is playing near the device a person is using to perform a search on. 

Bill Slawski, founder of consulting and SEO service company, SEO by the Sea, keeps a watchful eye on Google patents and what they may mean to the future of search. In his latest observation, he points out a patent by Google granted on September 16 proposes a new way to marry television and search results. 

The patent is described as a “system and method for enhancing user search results by determining a television program currently being displayed in proximity to an electronic device.”

Why would Google want to do this? 

A look into the patent shows that Google wants to improve the results of those who are performing a search while watching a television program, where the search is related to the program. 

From the patent documentation:

A TV viewer (sometimes referred to herein as a user) has access to a computer, set top box, smart phone or other Internet-connected electronic device, while he or she is viewing TV content. Occasionally, such a TV viewer executes search queries on the Internet-connected device related to the TV content he or she is watching.

The document goes on with a couple examples:

For example, when the user is watching a TV program about wildlife, he or she might execute searches on the Internet-connected device related to the particular animal species being described in that program. As another example, a viewer who is watching a movie might execute searches about locations or the actors appearing in the movie.

But the patent points out the missed opportunity when these types of searches are performed:

Such a viewer when entering a search query might use search terms that are related to but not identical to the particular content being described in the program he or she is viewing. For example, someone watching a TV program with a segment about a particular model of Porsche might execute a search query for “Porsche” or “sports cars” instead of the designation of the particular model that was the subject of the segment.

The solution Google seems to be proposing in this patent would make search results more relevant to the user. It says:

When there is an acceptable degree of correlation between the program information and the user’s search query (e.g., when the user executes a query for “Porsche” during the same time window a TV program is airing that includes a segment about a particular Porsche model), the search engine returns enhanced search results based on the presumption that the user in question was watching that particular TV program — or that the user in question would be interested in watching that particular TV program.

The document elaborates:

For example, given that the Porsche model in question is a “911 Turbo,” and that the user executed a search query for “Porsche,” the server can return information about one or more of: 1) the “911 Turbo” model (e.g., a link to information on the Porsche.com website about the “911 Turbo”), 2) information about the TV program that is currently airing with that segment and 3) suggestions of similar programming that is currently airing or airing in the future and that is available to the user.

The documentation also has a host of images to visually explain the process it’s patented, which can be found here

One concern is privacy, and the fact that Google may be using a device’s microphone to listen in. Slawski addressed this concern in his blog post comments, saying he didn’t think this patent was suggesting an audio-specific means of information gathering – unlike another patent from back in 2007 that did.  

Slawski added that the patent seemed to focus on “coming up with a probability that your search is related to a show in your area based upon understanding your location and then upon how well it fits with a profile of the show and meta data collected about it.”

However, there was a “but,” said Slawski:

One of the points they make in the patent is that this is something that would help people who are in “close proximity” to a TV when searching. That seems odd and isn’t explained in the patent filing.

What are your thoughts about this patent? Think it will improve your searching experience? Tell us about it in the comments. 

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