Google recently announced that it is working to improve its mobile search engine by offering results from outside apps that don’t have corresponding web content. Another innovative upcoming feature on Android devices is that certain apps will be able to be streamed without actually having to be downloaded.
The company has been toying with the idea of app indexing for the past two years, but it originally only showed results for apps that had matching web content. This only allowed users to go to the corresponding website of the app and find the exact same information. Now, search engine users will be able to see results that were previously locked away inside the apps themselves.
Google engineering manager Jennifer Lin said, “Because we recognize that there's a lot of great content that lives only in apps, starting today, we'll be able to show some 'app-first' content in Search as well. For example, if you need a hotel for your spur-of-the-moment trip to Chicago, search results will now include results from the HotelTonight app."
Additionally, Android devices will soon be able to stream certain apps that haven’t been installed by the user. People will be able to access the apps directly from Google Search, though it will typically require a good Wi-Fi connection. This will be useful for users who need to book a taxi or a hotel on special occasions, in which downloading a specific app would be an inconvenience for a one time thing.
This feature will work by including a “stream” button next to the search results. Users who click on the button will start streaming the app, and it will function as if they actually had the app fully downloaded. The apps themselves will be run on virtual machines on the Google Cloud.
Lin said, “It’s similar to a streamed video, but interactive, with swipe, tap, etc. signals being sent to the streamed app in essentially real time. We are experimenting with a few apps initially to get the user experience right, but we are looking to scale to more apps soon.”
For now, the app indexing feature and the app streaming option will only be available for a small number of apps, including HotelTonight, Weather, Chimani, Gormey, My Horoscope, Visual Anatomy Free, Useful Knots, Daily Horoscope, and New York Subway. However, Lin did promise that new apps would be available in the near future.