March 22, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka
One of my favorite things about Google Search is that it’s smart enough to recognize and fix mistakes. Smart enough to know that a search for ‘Skrillac tour dates’ should be corrected as ‘Skrillex tour dates’ instead. That constantly expanding wealth of knowledge garnered from the Googlebot is expanding to Google Docs.
Yesterday, software engineer Yew Jin Lim revealed that the desktop version of Google Docs’ spell check feature is incorporating the same adaptive language technology used in Google Search. Docs will now realize that someone typing “Icland is an icland,” meant to type “Iceland is an island,” and then provide the necessary suggestions. It will even use context clues to know the difference between meat and meet, or recognize pop culture terms. While most spell checks would instantly highlight ‘Skrillac’ as an error and offer no suggestions, Google Docs will say, “Did you mean: Skrillex.”
Adaptive spell check is currently available only for Google Docs in English, but I don’t think this will be the last product to see this feature. Yew Jin Lim said something in his announcement post that shows Google will deploy this technology to other products. “But search isn’t the only place where I make spelling mistakes!” he wrote. “And that got me wondering: could we take this adaptive technology and use it to make spell checking better in other places? The answer is yes.”
Just as Yew Jin said search isn’t the only place he makes spelling mistakes, I’d point out that Gmail and the web in general are other places where I make mistakes. It would be great to have that feature built into other products or within the Chrome, and it turns out that’s already taking place in the Chrome dev channel.
The Google Docs Android app doesn’t currently have spell check, so having that feature arrive on mobile would be huge. And of course, with the introduction of Chrome for Android, there’s another destination ripe for better spell check suggestions. Google is constantly trying to lessen the differences between desktop and mobile products, so if the search-powered spell check proves to be useful in more products, there’s a chance that would trickle down to Android, one of Google’s most important.