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Google is using its AI to understand the subtle searches of people in crisis

Google wants those users who are going through a crisis or a complicated situation and access their search engine to obtain information, to find the results they really need . To do this, the company is making use of MUM, its artificial intelligence model capable of understanding searches much more precisely and therefore offering better results.

The goal, as the company describes to The Verge, is “to more accurately detect a broader range of personal crisis searches”. Users, in particular, tend to turn to Google to find solutions or answers about a difficult situation they are going through. However, they do not always take into account that the search engine often does not understand queries that the human being could interpret. Therefore, the results of that search may not be helpful to that person.

Anne Merritt, Google product manager for health and information quality, gives an example to the aforementioned medium about a search related to domestic violence. The phrase “why did he hurt me when I told him I don't love him” can be interpreted by any human being as a clear situation of aggression. However, for the searcher it might not be so obvious. Google's AI, therefore, has the ability to understand this sentence as any other person would and thus be able to offer related results to help that person out of that situation.

Something similar happens with searches related to suicide. If someone types in “The most effective way to take one's life,” Google would show results that include methods of suicide. With MUM, on the other hand, the search engine shows results that try to avoid the situation. Among them, telephone numbers and help websites.

MUM, Google's promising AI, is also used in many other cases

It is not the first time that Google has made use of its so-called Unified Multitasking Model (MUM) in its search engine and its services. Its AI, in fact, began to work in 2021 with the aim of showing much more consistent results for those users who are looking for information about COVID-19 vaccines. MUM is capable of collecting official information on the status of vaccination and cases of coronavirus in different countries and displaying it in a much more intuitive way in graphs. These in fact appear at the top of the page. They are also shown every time a user searches for a related word, such as “covid cases”, “vaccination”, etc.

Months later, Google began implementing MUM in Google Lens, its image recognition service. The company, in particular, introduced a new search model combining the scanning of photos and videos with text, to find more precise results. For example, if a user needs to plant a plant and doesn't know its name, they can take a photo of it and type “how to plant”. Google Lens, with the help of the artificial intelligence system, will detect the type of plant and the typed command and show related results.