Ask.com today rolled out an ‘answers feature’ which is a long line in innovations they are bringing to the search space. I am a big believer that there is lots more innovation to come in search. In fact, I am deeply involved in True Knowledge which is an open-domain question answering system designed to answer questions.
True Knowledge has a number of interesting components which make its question-answering capability stand out:
- It has an inference model which means that we can deduce facts (answers) even if we haven’t been told them a priori
- We assess facts and weigh their accuracy based on system and user assessments
- Our knowledge is stored in a knowledge representation which means we try to understand the question and can confirm if we understand it and if we have the right answer. This eliminates a step of human processing–the one where you try to figure out whether the machine has misinterpreted you or not.
- We provide direct answers. So if you ask ‘how tall is the eiffel tower?’ we’ll answer ‘324m’
- We are open-domain so can answer queries which cross many domains of knowledge
True Knowledge can do really well answering certain queries which traditional search engines may choke on. The new Ask.com does a good job on some questions; Google less so. (TK is in beta so I can’t link directly to the answers, I have linked to screenshots.)
- Who are the 2008 presidential candidates? Compare Google | Ask
- Who was US president when Michael Jackson was a teenager? Compare Google | Ask
- In which city would you find the Rialto? Compare Google | Ask
- What is the density of iridium? We don’t know the answer to this one, but we can tell you that we don’t and you can add the information yourself.
We are at the early stages of developing True Knowledge but it is very exciting. If you want a beta invite, then email me. If you want to join the team, then we are hiring. In particular, I am looking for a product manager. Let me know.