Microsoft is introducing some of its Cortana personal assistant smarts to its desktop search engine, with a new feature rolling out today that will use your previous query to inform your next, providing it with key contextual information so that you can search more conversationally, in the same way you’d ask follow-up questions of a friend during a regular chat.
So, if you’re searching for a specific actor, maybe by asking who played Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, Bing will not only provide you with Chris Pratt’s name directly in results, but you can ask follow-up questions, like “Who is his wife?” or “How old is he?” and the search engine will provide those answers directly about the subject of the prior search, once again in the results page directly.
These are features that Microsoft is rolling out now, so users in the U.S. at least should have access to it. You can continue asking questions without having to name the subject of the search, too, so it really does become like a fairly lengthy conversation over time.
Microsoft’s efforts in bringing more contextual smarts to Bing are admirable, since it brings us closer to the day we can interact with our computing devices in ways more similar to the habits we have in interacting with the world in general. This should make it easier and faster to string queries together and find simple answers to simple questions, and eventually, it could make it possible for search engines and other computing software to engage in even complex conversations with end users.