Google experiments with new shortcuts

In the last few weeks, some users spotted new shortcuts below the search field in the Google mobile app. The shortcuts give the user quick access to the weather, sports, entertainment and food options.

Previously, getting a list of restaurants for a particular meal involved entering a search query like “dinner options nearby.” The result was a list of restaurants with a small map view. However, with the new shortcuts, the experience is far more compelling. When you click on the “ear and drink” shortcut, you get a grid of options to choose from such breakfast, lunch, dinner, bars, coffee, etc. Below that are several carousels of top picks, atmosphere, etc. At present, the entertainment option only allows you to purchase movie tickets.

The results from the shortcuts are driven using machine learning. Also, all the results are tailored to those nearby, unless you specifically request results for a different location. The results match what Google’s machine learning algorithm believes are the best option for you, in your current location, at this time of day. The context is important, so none of the shortcuts exist on the desktop version of Google.

It is unclear if this is an experiment or the start of a wider launch. Right now, more shortcuts appear on Android than iOS, and not all users see the menu. Also, Google has left out the other two verticals that will most benefit from such shortcuts: travel and shopping. Google has not publicized the shortcuts or its introduction, but if they do, it looks like a good competitor to Yelp.

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