Google’s new “Talk to Books”

Google’s new “Talk to Books”

I’m always looking for innovative ways to discover books to read. I’m also interested in artificial intelligence and talktec…conversational technology, like Amazon’s Alexa.

Google just introduced a really interesting new tool, called

Talk to Books

The idea is simple.

You ask a question, using natural language (phrasing your question like you would for a human being).

It answers (quickly) with snippets from books (and connects you to those books).

The first question I asked I won’t reproduce here, because it was too philosophical and potentially controversial. However, I was very impressed with the answers it gave me!

My next question was,

“What makes a character interesting?”

It gave me several passages…the first couple just seemed to parrot my question back to me, but I liked this response:

“Where you most need backstory information is in the areas of a character’s past that can’t safely be assumed. These are often, if not always, the areas that make the character interesting or unique. Why won’t Rick stick his neck out for anyone in Casablanca, even his long-lost love?”
How to Build a Great Screenplay by David Howard (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I seemed to just be getting answers from non-fiction books, which makes some sense, but I wanted to check on an in-universe answer for a fiction series.

So I asked, “Where does Glinda live?”

One answer came from Wicked, but didn’t really answer the question. I’m not sure why the others appeared…they weren’t related, exactly. This was an interesting one:

“Mrs. Beery continues regarding her ancestor “John.” She lives about 18 miles from the old Judy homestead in Clark County, Ohio, a big old brick house with fireplaces in each end. At the time she wrote, May, 1928, she said the house was still standing…”
–Genealogies of Virginia Families

My guess here is that it may have connected Judy with Judy Garland and Judy Garland with the Wizard of Oz and Glinda with that.

I asked, “What is Stephen King’s best book?”

and a couple of the passages clearly understood the question (although I’m not sure I’d agree with Pet Sematary as the answer).

This is all just in beta, but it’s quite impressive.

If they put this into Google Assistant, it will give it a quantum quality increase.

It will also be interesting if someone can build an Alexa skill to take advantage of it. ūüėČ

You can let me and my readers know what you think about it by commenting on this post.


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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

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