Tech’s Cutting Edge

Business Week has four interviews on nanotech, genomics, web search and robotics, which “are all rising stars that will play increasingly crucial roles in the way humans interact with technology. All hold the promise to improve human life in dramatic ways.” From the article on information retrieval which discusses IBM’s Web Fountain and talks to Dan Gruhl and Andrew Tomkins:

After several years in stealth mode, last year IBM unveiled a self-described “sense-making” technology it calls WebFountain, which is designed to filter information in a highly re sophisticated way.

Instead of scouring Web pages for keywords and links, as most search engines do, WebFountain aims to spot the opinions presented on the pages. Rather than merely asking for information about a Sony CyberShot digital camera, for example, a Web surfer could feasibly ask: “What do people think about the new Sony CyberShot digital camera?”

Just as intriguing, WebFountain is attempting to bring a time axis to Internet search. Today, search engines provide a snapshot of how the Web views a certain topic. But it’s largely a medium without a memory. That makes it next to impossible to spot trends or easily analyze how things shift over time — which could be compelling information. Imagine the value a marketer would get from an answer to the question: “How have mentions of my brand changed over the last six months?”

Gruhl: What we do is so much more. We call it “sense making.” Search presents a tourist’s view of information. It’s a great way to start. But it’s not the way to keep you up to date, show you trends, or help you understand the world around you. [IBM’s technology tries to answer the question:] What does the landscape look like? And, more importantly, how is that landscape changing?

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.