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4/28/2009
05:02 PM
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Google Search Now Visualizes Data With Graphs

The new data capabilities are tied to the acquisition of Trendalyzer two years ago.

Google searches for certain data sets now return interactive charts alongside text search results.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Google product manager Ola Rosling explains that thanks to its acquisition of Trendalyzer two years ago, the company has been developing new capabilities to help visualize search queries for data and is now starting to make those capabilities available.

As an example, the Google search query "San Francisco unemployment rate" returns a graph of San Francisco's unemployment rate from 2004 through February 2009 as its first result.

The graph returned on the search results page is accompanied a text answer for the query: " 8.3% of the labor force - Not seasonally adjusted - Feb 2009."

But clicking on the graph or the linked description text takes the user to a page with a larger, interactive chart that provides access to specific data points. It also provides a way to add or remove unemployment data from specific geographic regions for the sake of making regional comparisons.

Google provides a link to such charts so that they can be shared via e-mail or IM. The company has posted a video that demonstrates how its new data visualization capabilities work.

At present, Google will only graph data related to queries related to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau's Population Division. But expect to see the service expand over time.

Rosling characterizes the launch as a first step in its data visualization efforts. "We hope people will find this search feature helpful, whether it's used in the classroom, the boardroom, or around the kitchen table," he says. "We also hope that this will pave the way for public data to take a more central role in informed public conversations."


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