By continuing to use the site or forum, you agree to the use of cookies, find out more by reading our GDPR policy

Google is making a big change in the way it presents search results. Most people won’t notice, but, Google executives said, the new technology represents a leap forward in the company’s ability to understand what people are asking for when they search. Google’s search engine uses natural language processing to analyze queries. For example, for the entry “get medicine at pharmacy,” Google will home in on the words “medicine” and “pharmacy” and look for pages related to those two keywords. Starting today, the company is rolling out a new machine learning-powered language processing method called Bidirectional Encoder Representations From Transformers, or BERT for short. BERT looks at the sequences of words in searches — not just the words themselves — to glean more information on the intent behind them. For example, results for “can you get medicine for someone pharmacy” would previously have served a link to a 2017 MedlinePlus article about getting a prescription filled, and missed the point that the search was looking for information on how to pick up a prescription for someone else. Using BERT, Google’s search engine now shows a 2002 article from the Department of Health and Human Services about how to have a friend or family member pick up the medicine on your behalf. Pandu Nayak, Google’s vice president of search, gave another example at a press event yesterday, using the query “How old was Taylor Swift when Kanye went on stage?” Before BERT, Google surfaced videos of the 2009 event during which the rapper interrupted the pop star’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. After BERT, Google presents as its first result a snippet from a BBC article, which states: “A 19-year-old Swift had just defeated Beyoncé to win Best Female Video for her country-pop teen anthem You Belong With Me.” Google's search returns automatically highlighted “19-year-old” for emphasis. Learn more by visiting OUR FORUM.