Let’s take a break from beating up on Google for cooperating (or not cooperating) with government spy programs and talk about what Google does really well: search. Every now and then I take a look at the company’s Insidesearch blog, and more often than not I find something cool and noteworthy.
One recent headline caught my eye right away: “Time to back away from the cookie jar? Introducing nutrition info in search.” I haven’t had a cookie jar in my house for many years, but I do pay attention to what I eat.
Suppose I want to know how much fat there is in one avocado. Using Google’s new search gadget you can simply type the question, or say it, and you get an answer that looks something like this:
Here are a few more examples:
Tempted by popcorn at the movies? Ask “how many calories are in popcorn,” and Google gives you an answer: 31 calories per cup.
Perplexed by a food label or recipe? Ask “what nutrients are in breadfruit?” or “Is there sugar in granadilla?”
On a high-protein diet? Ask “how many carbs are there in corn?” or simply search for “corn,” and you’ll find detailed nutrition information.
Unfortunately, you do not get the same detailed answers when you ask about specific brands. For example, when I asked Google about sugar in sodas I saw an info box like the one on avocados, shown above. But when I asked about sugar in Coca-Cola, Google returned a set of links. (I bet lawyers had something to do with that.)
For now, nutrition search only works for about 1000 foods, and it is not available everywhere. Over time, Google says it will “be adding more features, foods, and languages.”
These new search features may not be as important as the NSA’s snooping, but they are certainly tastier.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.