Google's 'Near Me Now' Search Debuts

The company is simplifying searches on mobile devices by enabling menu- and voice-driven queries.
Google on Thursday said that its new "Near me now" search option is available to those accessing Google's mobile search page through an Android browser or iPhone.

To do so, Google mobile search users must first allow their mobile device to access location data, which is done through the Settings link toward the bottom of Google's mobile search page.

Once that's done, a "Near me now" link will appear below the search button on the Google mobile search page. Clicking on that link will return a list of local points of interest, including restaurants, coffee shops, and bars, as well as banks and ATMs.

An "Explore right here" drop down menu provides fast access to local businesses in the user's vicinity. The "Explore right here" option works only if the user's phone provides sufficiently accurate location data.

In a blog post, Google mobile engineers John Eric Hoffman and Jussi Myllymaki explain that "Near me now" was designed to help users find out more about what's around them and to make it easier to conduct certain popular searches, like searches for coffee shops and ATMs.

The feature also serves to make phone interaction easier by minimizing the need to type text, something that has never been easy on tiny mobile device keyboards, whether physical or virtual.

Google VP of engineering Vic Gundotra initially announced the "Near me now" local search capability at Google's annual search technology event, Searchology.

Several of the other technologies presented there -- Google Goggles and Japanese language support for the iPhone and Android voice search apps -- offered alternatives to text-driven searching.

Ways to simplify text input on portable devices, and alternative modes of interaction, are likely become more common as mobile computing devices and applications proliferate.