'Natural Search'

Heard of Powerset or Natural Seach? Probably not. Here is the the lowdown on a new entrant in search technology.

The future of searching is on its way... still. Say the name Google and nine out of ten computer users, I believe it is more like ten out of ten, but nothing is ever 100%, will nod their heads in acknowledgement. There is a reason for this, Google is the major player in online searching, processing more than fifty percent of online searches, not bad numbers considering there are other companies such as Yahoo and Microsoft vying for your traffic, not to mention a plethora of other smaller sites as well.

Most current search engines use a technique called keyword searching to return a list of possible results for your search criteria. This is where you type in a couple words to describe what you are looking for and a list of results is returned. Google has all but perfected this art, which is why they are on top. They use data gathering, complex statistical algorithms and a large room full of computers working in tandem.

But there is a new a new player on the block. Powerset is a new company that is focusing on a technology called "natural language" searching. This is different from the current keyword searching as it allows for precise sentences to be formed, as opposed to those darn keyword searches. When you perform a key word search you sound like a 2 year old or a tourist trying to find their way to the nearest pub. Natural language searching allows you to speak proper "Queen's English" and find the results you are looking. To those who are interested in the behind the scenes working of computer programming this is a very big deal. To the everyday user this just sounds like more typing, instead of banging in a couple words on the topic you would like you have to enter a properly formulated sentence. Not so my good friends, I am sure that whoever cracks the final algorithm and finds someone to pay for the vast quantity of computer hardware needed to operate that beast of code will also take into consideration those of us who like to type "Italian Restaurants on Crown Street Wollongong open on a Wednesday night" into http://www.google.com and find out what where they can get a good risotto and bottle of red.

The beauty of the natural language search is it opens the door to all the futuristic innovations we see in the movies. Another technology that has been around since the 90's is voice recognition software, the two technologies will undoubtedly be intertwined. Both exist and both have evolved to somewhere between infancy and adolescence, yet one will drive the other, and seeing as the searching aspect will most likely be the more difficult to achieve that will be the driving force.

Some may be asking why talk about it now, if they have both been around since the 90's then there is certainly no rush to make the magic happen. Powerset, a startup company with huge dreams of bringing the world natural language searching has just been taken under the wing of the Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC). This might not mean much to anyone, but they are a research facility which specializes in new or innovative technology. A couple of their innovations you may know include creating graphical interface for pc's (who remembers when we used to have to tap out our work in a DOS console using monochrome?) and of course the mouse. So these guys are the real deal and able to adequately resource to make things happen. It does not mean that you will wake up next week, instead of logging onto Google you will check out powerset.com, lean over to your new microphone and ask for the data on the reports you need to write, but it is a huge step in the right direction and something us IT nerds get excited about.

Even if you don't happen to live the coveted lifestyle of the IT techie, then this news is also interesting to you, not just for practical reasons but think about this; Google is worth a couple bucket loads of cash for what they do with keyword searching. Imagine if Powerset is able to crack the code and bring their dreams to reality? In no way are wee suggesting you spend your hard earned dollars on this, if it is even public, but if you will excuse me I am off to see my financial planner and do some research. In the mean time while we are still "struggling" with those pesky keyword searches, here is a great cheat sheet to help you get more out of your searches with Google: Google searching cheat sheet.

The link that counts: http://www.powerset.com

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