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Courtesy: Google

Google on Thursday outlined a number of new features for its core search product, including the ability to search for that song stuck in your head by humming or whistling.

Why it matters: While humming may be a cute use case, it shows Google’s recognition that there are plenty of ways to search beyond typing terms into a box. The company has been investing heavily in voice search as well as AI capabilities to help people use their smartphone camera to look up plants or get help with translation.

What's new: Beyond the hum-to-search feature, Google announced several other features Thursday during a livestream event dubbed "Search On."

  • Google is rolling out a new algorithm to better detect when someone uses the wrong word in a search or simply has their fingers misaligned on the keyboard. It really works, as I found out in a back-and-forth on Twitter with Google search liaison Danny Sullivan.
  • To help during the COVID-19 crisis, Google is making it easier to know whether a particular location is crowded at any moment and what precautions, such as mask requirements, are being taken there.
  • Google detailed its progress with Duplex, its automated assistant that can call merchants to make appointments. The company said it's also using the technology to make more than 3 million updates to business listings, such as pharmacies, restaurants and grocery stores, in search and Maps.

Go deeper

Big Tech scrambles to prevent inauguration threats

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big Tech companies are scrambling to take action to prevent Inauguration Day violence, taking matters into their own hands after the government was caught ill-prepared for last week's Capitol siege.

What's happening: Major firms are taking a range of steps to stop their platforms from being used to plan, incite or carry out violent acts in Washington, D.C.

Updated 7 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."