Google Improving OneBox Answers
Remember Ask Jeeves? If you've been online for a while you probably do, even if you haven't turned your browser to the still-running Ask.com in many years. The central premise was that you'd type a question into the search box, and "Jeeves" would deliver you an actual answer to your question - sometimes - instead of a list of sites that might have the answer to your question.
Although it rarely worked as you hoped, recent improvements Google has made to its OneBox answers are bringing Jeeves' old vision much closer to a consistent reality.
Ask a Question, Get an Answer?
According to Search Engine Land, several sources have reported that Google OneBox is now able to give more specific and detailed answers to questions, even ones that may be quite complex. So far, Google hasn't made any announcements about specific changes other than to say that they're always experimenting with new algorithms.
Although a few tests run by Search Engine Land reveal that a few bugs still certainly exist in the system, some of the results are impressively on point. For example, the query "why is the sky blue" leads to this OneBox answer:
"Blue light is scattered in all directions by the tiny molecules of air in Earth's atmosphere. Blue is scattered more than other colors because it travels as shorter, smaller waves. This is why we see a blue sky most of the time."
The answer for "what are the largest mammals" is a little more problematic, including text that shouldn't be there:
"See more pictures of marine mammals. A Whale of a World. By considerable measure, the largest known animal on Earth is the blue whale."
Finally, a query for "what do cows eat" came up with a relevant paragraph about the feeding differences between grass-fed, pasture-raised and free range cows, but the first two links offered below the OneBox appear to have better information.
Although OneBox appears to be improving significantly, there's still more work to be done before it becomes an error-proof answer system.