Skip to main content

As if it weren’t already enough of a know-it-all, Google just got even smarter

Google Pixel XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Sometimes, you just can’t help but know the answer to a really obscure question — the sort that make great nightly fodder for Jeopardy! Google now knows the feeling all too well, apparently.

That’s because on Wednesday, Google became a bit more knowledgeable about all sorts of everyday trivia questions. If you ask Google Search why a cat can’t chew big pieces of food, for example, it’ll tell you that the animal’s jaw can’t move sideways. If you muse in the search bar how hamsters got their name, it’ll explain that the English word hamster is derived from the German “hamstern,” which means to hoard. And if you ask Google what the Ancient Greeks thought about the color violet, it’ll give you this romantic, saucy answer: love and fertility.

Those aren’t the only subjects Google has brushed up on, lately. It can answer questions about plants, fruits, and veggies, and “living creatures from around the world.” Some questions yield multiple facts, in which case Google displays a random one — a refresh surfaces another fact.

It’s in some ways an expansion of Google’s Knowledge graph, a knowledge base used by Google to enhance its search engine’s results with information gathered from a wide variety of sources. The feature, which launched in 2012, scours sources including the CIA World Factbook, Wikidata, and Wikipedia to supply a database of facts. The Knowledge Graph held 70 billion facts in October 2017, according to Google.

More broadly, it speaks to Google’s overriding mission to categorize and “make searchable” the world’s information. In 2004, Google launched the eponymous Google Books, an initiative that relied on optical character recognition to scan the pages of books from publishers, authors, magazines, libraries, and participants in the Google Books Partner Program. The resulting digital texts are converted to a format that can be parsed by Google Search on the web. As of October 2015, the number of scanned book titles was over 25 million.

Google urged prospective fact-finders to enjoy the hunt. “Head on to Google, ask for a fun fact about something […] and ta-da! A trivia tidbit is delivered right at the top of your search results,” Google Search Product Manager Satyajeet Salgar said in a blog post.

Kyle Wiggers
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kyle Wiggers is a writer, Web designer, and podcaster with an acute interest in all things tech. When not reviewing gadgets…
Skype now supports 911 calls in the U.S.
iPhone with the Skype mobile app loading screen.

Skype has updated its mobile and desktop apps to allow emergency calling in the U.S. for the first time in its 18-year history. Calls to 911 are also possible via Skype’s web-based service, notes for the recently released Skype 8.80 showed.

Emergency calling from Skype could come in handy if you find yourself in a tricky situation without a phone but have a computer close by, or if phone lines are down but you can get online.

Read more
The Interplanetary File System: How you’ll store files in the future
Cloud storage for downloading an isometric. A digital service or application with data transmission. Network computing technologies. Futuristic Server. Digital space. Data storage. Vector illustration.

When you upload a file or send a tweet, your information is stashed in some corporation-owned mega data center in the middle of nowhere. The endless racks of computers in these facilities hold millions of ledgers, and with a flick of a switch, companies can censor or misuse the data.

But what if instead of handing it to, say Amazon or Google, your data is broken down into pieces and scattered across the globe so that no one except you and your key -- not even the government -- can access it?

Read more
The best hurricane trackers for Android and iOS in 2022
Truck caught in gale force winds.

Hurricane season strikes fear into the hearts of those who live in its direct path, as well as distanced loved ones who worry for their safety. If you've ever sat up all night in a state of panic for a family member caught home alone in the middle of a destructive storm, dependent only on intermittent live TV reports for updates, a hurricane tracker app is a must-have tool. There are plenty of hurricane trackers that can help you prepare for these perilous events, monitor their progress while underway, and assist in recovery. We've gathered the best apps for following storms, predicting storm paths, and delivering on-the-ground advice for shelter and emergency services. Most are free to download and are ad-supported. Premium versions remove ads and add additional features.

You may lose power during a storm, so consider purchasing a portable power source,  just in case. We have a few handy suggestions for some of the best portable generators and power stations available. 

Read more