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3/4/2010
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Google Gesture Search Available For Android

The latest Google Labs experiment allows people to input letters for mobile search queries using a finger on a touch screen.

Continuing its experimentation with new ways to search, Google on Wednesday announced the availability of Gesture Search, a Google Labs application for Android 2.0+ phones that allows users to draw alphabet letters on the touch screen to search data on the device.

"Gesture Search lets you quickly find a contact, an installed application, a bookmark or a music track from hundreds or thousands of items, by simply drawing alphabet gestures on the touch screen," explains Google research scientist Yang Li in a blog post.

If nothing else, this input option may appeal to those who liked stylus-based input but hated losing their phone stylus.

Given the patent lawsuit that Apple recently filed against Android phone maker HTC, gesture-based input could become obligatory if Apple succeeds in enforcing its iPhone virtual keyboard patent.

That's not a likely scenario however, given Google's legal and financial resources.

Yang suggests that Gesture Search provides an alternative for situations where typing text to trigger a search suggestion might take too long and search by voice might be disruptive.

Google has also been experimenting with images as queries, through a service called Google Goggles for Android users.

Gesture Search improves over time by considering the user's search history. It will recognize both upper case and lower case letters. And it allows words or phrases to be spelled out through a series of gesture entries.

Gesture Search presently will only search contacts, applications, bookmarks and music tracks. Users can exclude specific content types through the Settings menu.

Gesture Search is available as a free download from the Android Market. Because it is a Google Labs experiment, users should expect some bugs.

At present, the app is not yet ready for worldwide use because it only recognizes Roman alphabet characters. Future versions are likely to address that shortcoming.

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