Microsoft has announced the addition of a number of new features to its Bing search engine. The company says it has been examining the trends in search and in feedback, and is working to accommodate these. Microsoft is referring to trends like the demand for faster access to knowledge, offering different user interfaces for different kinds of results, and an increased focus on "getting things done" with search.
Bing is rolling out a new "task-focused" version of its home page. It looks relatively the same as before, but when you mouse over different categories, you will get more search options. For example, if you mouse over "Travel," you will get links like "find flights" and "find hotels," and you can conduct your search from there.
"There is also an interactive Instant Answer that allows you to enter your origin, destination, travel dates and…click…you are in Bing travel," says Bing Product Manager Henry Hall. "Within Bing travel you have fast access to flight purchase recommendations via the price predictor that tells you the least expensive times to fly. In addition to money, you’ll save time as well with Bing travel’s comprehensive flight listing results and links to top travel sites and airlines."
Bing is also enhancing local information for hundreds of cities looking for things like local attractions, points of interest, neighborhoods and other local information sources like newspaper web sites. Bing has developed enhanced city results, which include links to key information and high-resolution slide shows.
Bing is making it easier to find the preview feature. "We're doing a better job mining things like contact phone numbers and email addresses from web pages and displaying them clearly under a Contact banner, and generally cleaning up the interface to make it easier to decide if this a site you want to visit," says Hall. "Last, we're also integrating images in some preview results. We believe that all these features will allow for a faster decision about whether a site is right for your needs, which means less clicking on your browser’s back button."
Bing has also added a new Event Search feature, which gives users a summary of events for major cities, which can be filtered by things like performances, food & dining, fairs & festivals, music, etc.
Bing has also made it easy to share results for shopping searches on Facebook, a feature Hall deems ideal for passing on holiday gift ideas. There are also better results for health-related searches, including, conditions, medications, and hospitals. Each type of query will return more info and a more organized set of results.
Perhaps the biggest addition to Bing is that of Wolfram Alpha's algorithms and "expertly curated data". Wolfram Alpha will help power Bing's results for nutritional information and math searches.
When users search Bing for specific food items, they will get a nutrition quick tab that shows more information about it and a nutrition facts label at the bottom of the results page.
"Another helpful tool is the body mass index that tracks your workout progress," the Bing Team says. "We have introduced Wolfram|Alpha’s body mass index interactive form on our results page. If you search for ‘bmi’ you’ll get the option to enter your height and weight. Click ‘Calculate’ and you’ll get a detailed Body Mass Index analysis directly on Bing."
Bing will also rely on Wolfraph Alpha's ability to solve complex math functions.
More on the newly announced features, read this post. For more on Bing's integration with Wolfram Alpha specifically, read here.