Answer Engines

A.I. has been through different waves during the last decades, from the huge interest in games to expert systems and then to semantic web, but except for games where it is obvious how A.I. technologies are used, people do not really know what is it exactly that researchers in this field do. Are they creating Terminators or are they creating something really useful like a teaching assistant?

Last days have been full of news about A.I.: from Siri to Knewton, A.I. was everywhere in the news (at least the news about Occupy Wall Street are not about A.I.). Most of the articles were about Siri, of course, and not without merits. It is probably the closest that we have come to realize the vision of personal digital assistants, a key part of the semantic web. It is debatable if Siri is an intelligent agent, but it is clear that it represents a new wave of digital assistant. By saying this we acknowledge that what Apple gave us is far superior to the Microsoft’s ’90s shy attempt at the idea. The Internet is full of clips with Siri and also one of the major news was that it was already ported to the older iPhones like iPhone4. Steve Wozniack, the Apple co-founder, also suggested that there is more to Siri and some features he tested are not yet in the final product. That only means we’ll see them in the future, maybe in the next iPhone. Woz also suggested that this is the future: answer engines, not search engines. It’s not a new ideea since Wolfram Alpha and Quora are working on it for years. It’s just that it’s the first time when an implementation almost gets it right. Kudos to Apple. Quora is not dead. Au contraire. If Apple buys them it might be the next big thing. The Wolfram Alpha as we all know was a fiasco, so it still premature to say if this is really the new trend. People want both: the short (answer engines) and the long answers (search engines), so probably these two are not different markets, but rather facets of the same market.
Of course search engines are not dead. We hear that DuckDuckGo finally took off. They got funding and started hiring. We hope they don’t take the Cuil route to disaster and that in some day we might be able to really see their dream come true.
And as if all these news were not enough, we also noticed that Knewton, a start-up focused on education is really attracting a lot of press and money. Their adaptive algorithms are old ideas, but the execution and reviews are stellar. We hope they will change something.
So as we see everything is focused around A.I. these days. As long as researchers and founders are not building Terminators we are really excited.

This entry was posted on Sunday, October 16th, 2011 and is filed under Business, Internet. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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