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MUM knows best as Google announces new search technology

Posted on May 20, 2021

 

Google has unveiled its new Multitask Unified Model (MUM) technology to help the search engine interpret queries across a range of media, promising it will be “1,000 times more powerful” than its BERT algorithm, which was introduced in 2019.

The update was announced in a blog post on Tuesday, and it has also been showcased by Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan at Google’s I/O 2021 event taking place this week. Appropriately for the acronym, and much like many of the mums we know and love, it seems MUM’s speciality will be multitasking.

According to Search Engine Land, Raghavan gave an example of how the feature would help Google make sense of a query, whether it used text, images or video. He noted that users may be able to take a picture of a pair of hiking boots and submit them with the query of whether the boots could be used to hike up Mount Fuji in Japan. In reality, there are several questions for the search engine to understand there, with the first being to decipher the photo and work out what brand and style of boots they are. It then has to retain that information and understand what “Mount Fuji” is, and finally return information on the boots’ suitability for a voyage there. This explains the “multitasking” element of the technology.

The blog post also stresses that along with understanding mixed media, the update will also help break down language barriers. Continuing with the theme of Mount Fuji, it may be the case that the best info about hiking the mountain is in Japanese. If an English speaker is using Google, it will be able to interpret Japanese information and use it to guide the user to English language resources that might answer their query best.

In typically loose Google timeframes, the company stresses that it is still exploring this new tech, and it will be introduced to the search engine over the “coming months and years”. Until we begin to see it in action, it’s difficult to say how it might impact search results, but it will surely only increase the importance of relevant written content and high-quality, clearly tagged images. To learn how we can keep your site in tune with Google’s increasingly intuitive algorithm updates, speak to Engage Web today.

John Murray
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