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The big announcements at Google’s I/O event in San Francisco Wednesday didn’t mention Web search, the technology that got the company started and made it so successful. But in a small session later that day, the inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil talked confidently about making Google’s current search technology obsolete.

Kurzweil joined the company 18 months ago to lead a project aimed at creating software capable of understanding text as well as humans can. Yesterday, he told the audience that progress on this effort was good, and that it would result in an entirely new way to search the Web and manage information.

“You would interact with it like you would a human assistant,” said Kurzweil. It will be possible to ask a question of the software just as you would if talking to another person, he said; and you could trust that it would return a fully reasoned answer, not just a list of links as Google’s search engine does today. Such a virtual assistant might also take the initiative, Kurzweil said, coming forward when new information had appeared that was related to an earlier query or conversation.

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