Google search now accepts image+text queries • The Register

2022-05-07 08:24:11 By : Ms. stella Hsiung

Google's latest feature is making its Lens visual search tool mingle with text for image searches for those difficult-to-describe vague queries.

That may not sound like a big deal, but what Google calls Multisearch "a feat of machine learning" could change the way people perform some of the most common searches and take a bite out those moments when you know the rough idea of what you're looking for but lack a suitable way to define it in text or image searches alone.

Retailers will salivate over the vague search option, for one, as highlighted by Belinda Zeng, Google Search product manager, who described several examples of how Multisearch could work: "How many times have you tried to find the perfect piece of clothing, a tutorial to recreate nail art or even instructions on how to take care of a plant someone gifted you – but you didn't have all the words to describe what you were looking for?"

Multisearch would address all of those situations: a photo of a dress could be queried with the name of a preferred color, photos of a finished set of nails could be searched with the phrase "how to," and unknown plants can be Googled with "care instructions." 

An example of Google's Multisearch tool

In each of those cases, Google Search is addressing multiple unknowns: what the object in the image is, how the text request relates to the image, and how to combine the two into what the user wants.

In short, what you need is an expert on those particular subjects with the skill to infer, based on what it's presented with, the best course of action.

Multisearch is possible thanks to Google's Multitask Unified Model, or MUM. MUM is an improvement on BERT, Google's previous AI language model released in 2019. BERT improved Google search results by 10 percent for English speakers, Google said. MUM, it added, is 1,000 times more powerful than BERT.

Google's Pandu Nayak described the difference between BERT and MUM using the planning of a hiking trip as an example: ask an expert how to prepare for a hike and they'll take all sorts of things into account. 

"Today, Google could help you with this, but it would take many thoughtfully considered searches – you'd have to search for the elevation of each mountain, the average temperature in the fall, difficulty of the hiking trails, the right gear to use, and more," Nayak said. 

BERT is what you'd use to make multiple searches (Nayak said eight on average for a query of that level of complication), but MUM is designed to respond like the aforementioned professional. "MUM could understand you're comparing two mountains, so elevation and trail information may be relevant. It could also understand that, in the context of hiking, to 'prepare' could include things like fitness training as well as finding the right gear," Nayak said. 

As with all things search, Google isn't providing specifics about its algorithms, so the inner workings of MUM and its Multisearch capabilities are likely to remain a mystery. Google said that Multisearch is available in beta through its iOS and Android apps in the US only, though as of writing it doesn't appear to be available in the iOS version of the app.

Google said MUM-powered Multisearch currently works best for shopping-related searches (e.g. drapes with pattern X, a dress in a different color, etc.). Other searches will work, but Google's not vouching for their effectiveness. We've asked Google if it can explain the technology behind Multisearch and future applications in more detail.

In calendar 2021, 'Google Search and other' brought in $43.3 billion in revenue, up from $31.9 billion in the prior twelve months. The entire company turned over $75.3 billion for the year. ®

The FTC has settled a case in which Frontier Communications was accused of charging high prices for under-delivered internet connectivity.

The US telecommunications giant has promised to be clearer with subscribers on connection speeds, and will cough up more than $8.5 million, or less than a day in annual profit, to end the matter.

Frontier used to primarily pipe broadband over phone lines to people in rural areas, expanded to cities, and today supplies the usual fare to homes and businesses: fiber internet, TV, and phone services.

Exclusive Intel plans to start selling a software platform that promises to simplify and speed up the training of AI models for computer vision, according to internal company documents seen by The Register.

The software, code-named Sonoma Creek, is set to launch this fall, and the semiconductor giant plans to sell it as a subscription or license, which is part of a fresh push by the x86 giant to buoy chip sales with a growing stable of commercial software products. Intel also sees Sonoma Creek as a way to boost adoption of its free OpenVINO software toolkit for AI inference work.

Intel is pitching Sonoma Creek as an "end-to-end AI development platform" that simplifies computer-vision model training for subject matter experts who don't have data science experience.

Amazon plans to build five more datacenters in rural Oregon at estimated cost of $11.8 billion, according to documents filed in Morrow County last week.

The project would more than double the cloud colossus' datacenter footprint in the county. Amazon, home of AWS as well as an online shopping empire, operates four datacenters along the Columbia River, roughly 150 miles east of Portland, according to Oregon Live, which first reported on the planned expansion on Thursday.

If approved, construction of the five facilities would take place over the next four-five years, with the first facilities coming online in late 2023 and the last slated for early 2027.

Google Docs, the search giant's web-based word processing app, has been resuscitated after it was found choking on a series of conjunctions and other parts of speech.

Web developer Pat Needham noticed that typing, "And. And. And. And. And." into Google Docs, capitalized thus but without the quotation marks, caused the application to crash. This would occur after entering the text and refreshing the page.

"It's case-sensitive," wrote Needham in a post to Google Support. "So trying with 'and. and. And. and. And.' doesn't cause it to crash."

The US Treasury has sanctioned cryptocurrency mixer Blender for its role in helping North Korea's Lazarus Group launder stolen digital assets. 

As a result, among other limitations, anyone in the United States or a US person can no longer do any business with Blender without special permission from the government.

This marks the Feds' first-ever sanctions against a crypto mixer, which cybercriminals can use to cover their tracks. As the name might suggest, cryptocurrency mixing, or tumbling, can obscure the source of some digital money. The laundered coins cannot be traced back to, say, a wallet robbed of its contents, allowing crooks to spend their ill-gotten gains without being linked to their crimes.

The astonishing PicoPuter emulation project can run a transputer emulator on multiple Raspberry Pi Picos, and clustering them using the transputer's native inter-processor link protocol.

The Raspberry Pi Pico is a surprisingly capable device at $4 apiece, and one of its less well-known features is its eight programmable IO state-machines on board. As programmer-archaeologist Andrew Menadue wrote in a blog post:

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has open-sourced a federated learning platform it claims protects privacy by enabling the development of machine learning algorithms without having to share training data.

FederatedScope was developed by Alibaba's DAMO Academy, the global science and technology research outfit it founded in 2017, and the source code for this is now published under the Apache 2.0 license on GitHub.

The platform is described as a comprehensive federated learning platform that provides flexible customization for a variety of machine learning tasks in both academia and industry.

Nvidia has paid a $5.5 million fine to settle charges that the GPU maker withheld the true impact of cryptocurrency mining on 2017 revenue.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) made the settlement public Friday, saying the chip designer "failed to disclose that cryptomining was a significant element of its material revenue growth" for GPUs that are designed and marketed for PC gaming.

"Nvidia's disclosure failures deprived investors of critical information to evaluate the company's business in a key market," said Kristina Littman, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division's Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit.

Data warehousing specialist Teradata is taking a $60 million hit by ending sales, operations and support in Russia following the country's invasion of Ukraine.

CFO Claire Bramley told investors that of the $60 million, around $10 million was removed from first quarter revenue, leaving a $50 million impact expected across the remaining three quarters of 2022.

Teradata CEO Steve McMillan said: "In the quarter, we stopped conducting business in Russia, ceased customer interactions and services with all Russian accounts, and confirmed that we do not have any suppliers critical to our supply chain from Russia or Ukraine. Our actions were managed with a priority of support and care for our employees who were directly affected.

The Fedora Project has changed its collective mind, and Fedora 37 won't require UEFI – it will still install and run on BIOS-only systems.

Last month we reported on some simplifications planned for Fedora 36 and 37. Aside from the changes to console graphics support, there was a proposal to require UEFI firmware, as a step towards removing support for booting using the old-style legacy BIOS boot process.

Apparently, this generated more discussion than several previous wildly contentious changes, including, in the words of project lead Matthew Miller, "systemd-resolved, btrfs-by-default, and even switching the default editor to nano."

The UK's chief finance minister, Rishi Sunak, has blamed legacy IT for his decision not to increase social security payments as inflation hits the highest rate in 30 years.

According to reports, the Conservative politician in charge of The Treasury was prevented from raising some benefits because of aging systems at the country's Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which has overall responsibility for social security.

Some benefits were increased by 3.1 percent last month. The chancellor was told he could not introduce further increases because the systems at the benefits agency could not support this, said The Times. A government source said: "The system was simply not built to be flexible."

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