Powerset is undertaking a huge task: building a natural language search engine that reads and understands every sentence on the Web. The good news is that thanks to the technology that we’ve licensed from PARC combined with homegrown technology developed by our strong team of linguists and computer scientists, we’re well on the path to achieving this goal.
We realize that most companies wait to launch until they have a completely usable beta version. Because Powerset is a natural language search engine, the earlier we have input from the best natural language processing units on the planet – the brains of humans – the quicker our search engine will improve. Through a combination of quantitative feedback, qualitative suggestions and AI learning techniques, Powerset will get much smarter when people are interacting with it.
That’s the reason we’ve decided to create Powerset Labs, which we are opening up to the first group of users today at TechCrunch40. Powerset Labs is a community where users can provide feedback on our product design and natural language engine. While users will not be able to interact with the Powerset open search box across the Web, we are giving users a peek at technology demonstrations that show off some of Powerset’s natural language processing capabilities.
Though the content of Powerset Labs will change based on user feedback, we wanted to share with you what we demoed today at TC40: Powermouse and Use Cases.
Powermouse is a window into Powerset’s natural language index. When Powerset reads sentences in Wikipedia, we go from open text to representations of meaning. In other words, we take text and turn it into structured “facts.” When users enter a query into Powermouse, they’ll be able to browse the “facts” stored in our index. In the example below, when wrestling star “Hulk Hogan” is entered in the first “something” box, users can see all of the facts we’ve indexed about him. Now, if you add “defeat” into the connection box, users see all of the facts that we’ve indexed from Wikipedia about wrestlers that Hogan has defeated. Here’s a Hulk Hogan screenshot. In addition to showing off the power of our index, Powermouse also shows a different type of interface that’s possible with a natural language index.
Uses Cases demonstrates how a natural language query can exploit Powerset’s index. Unlike Powermouse, Use Cases lets users express their intent in natural language. We’ve picked about a dozen use cases that illustrate how a natural language index can return results that are qualitatively different than keyword results. For example, here’s a query of “Who mocked Blair?” that shows how Powerset understands all of the various ways “mock” can be expressed in English. After a query, we encourage users to tell Powerset which of our results are good and which are not. We also ask that users vote on which results are better: the Powerset results or the keyword results on the right. All of this user feedback is what will help make Powerset a better search engine.
Once users have tried out the applications in Powerset Labs, we invite them to submit ideas about how to make them better. Within Powerset Labs, users can browse through ideas, vote on the best ideas and comment on ideas. As users participate in Powerlabs, they’ll get karma points for everything they do. Eventually, users with the most karma will get perks within the community. The bottom line: We’re listening and we’ll try to implement your brilliance as soon as we possibly can.
As a note, Powerset has received a lot of attention over the past few months and we’ve been overwhelmed with the number of people who have signed up for Powerset Labs. Instead of letting everyone in at once, we’ve decided to let people into Poweset Labs in the order they signed up. We want to make sure that each group of Powerset Labs users gets a great experience, so we’re going to grow the community slowly and carefully. If you’d like to sign up, go to labs.powerset.com and we’ll be letting in the next wave of users as soon as possible.
We’re really excited to see the Powerset Labs community grow, to gather and implement your feedback, to share with you more and more technology demonstrations and prototypes, and ultimately to deliver a transformative search engine to the world.
Oh, and we have our first official social media press release about our launch at TechCrunch40 if you are press and need contact information, quotes or screenshots.