Google Updates an App That Allows You to Search With the Swipe of a Finger
Google has rolled out an update to a mobile app that you might have never heard of but might find surprisingly useful. An app called Gesture Search can now understand swiped queries in more than 40 languages, Google announced over Google+ this week.
For those of us who aren't familiar with Gesture Search, the free app allows users of Android devices to simply draw a letter or number on the screen with the tip of a finger to access contacts, apps, music, documents and whatever else they might have stored on their Android-powered device. For instance, if you swipe the letter C, search results can turn up apps on your device such as the camera, clock of the Google Chrome browser.
Gesture Search can be an alternative to the sometimes laborious task of typing on a small screen and can be far less disruptive to others than using voice control.
The app tailors itself to individual users based on their previous searches. It refines its results with each gesture the user makes. The updated app also supports transliteration, allowing users to write the way a word in another language sounds with their own alphabet.
One drawback: Gesture Search only allows users to enter the first character in a search, forcing users to revert to a more traditional scrolling approach after their initial swipe.
Many Android devices come preloaded with another gestural keyboard app called Swype, which allows users to compose messages in the same manner. For iOS users, there is a similar app free app called TouchPal, which also allows users to swipe their finger to compose messages instead of typing them out.
This is the first significant update to Gesture Search since it was introduced as an experimental Google Labs project in 2010. Only available in the U.S., this update could foreshadow the app's availability to a wider user base abroad.
Benjamin Kabin is a Brooklyn-based technology journalist who specializes in security, startups, venture capital and social media.