When dealing with patents, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of them are never actually made into real life products, but they can still give us an idea of what a company is interested in, and what plans they might have for the future. One of Google’s recent patent filings is especially interesting, because it suggests that the company is interested in embedding polls in its search results. This means that Google’s unparalleled userbase could one day be used to conduct research polls, simple opinion polls, or even official elections on a scale that has never been seen before.
Google tests and abandons many ideas – but each project it takes the time to look at gives you some window into a future world where it’s running increasingly varied aspects of our lives. Now it’s looking at voting systems. A patent has been filed for a ‘Voter User Interface’ that can be embedded within search results and linked to the social media accounts of relevant “contestants.” The system, the document says, is intended to understand that the search is related to a particular campaign and serves up the relevant poll accordingly. The patent notes that the user will have been ‘authenticated,’ implying this could be a secure system intended to facilitate processes like elections. Of course, it could just be a tool for marketers and users, something like Twitter questions, and mean loads of annoying polls could be clogging up your search results ASAP. It suggests, for example, that people involved in the poll could also then “distribute content within the social networking service.” Hooray for sharing! Perhaps it is just a new tool for ‘American Idol’ (although a touch too late, as it’s the show’s last season) but, given how widely Google is used, this could also offer public polling opportunities, whether official or just for research, at an unparalleled scale.