Qall me, says search engine

Search technology gets £2.8m Euro cash injection
Written by Tim Ferguson, Contributor

Search technology gets £2.8m Euro cash injection

A project to develop a system that allows people to ask a computer database questions vocally and have the answer texted to their mobile phone has been given the go-ahead.

Researchers at the University of Wolverhampton are collaborating with other European research groups to develop a new kind of search engine.

The research focuses on the development of a 'natural language processing technology' which will enable people to ask the system questions in their own language via voice, text or email and receive answers back by text or email.

The university's Research Institute of Information and Language Processing is working on the so-called Qall-me project (Question answering learning technologies in a multilingual and multimodal environment).

The project is the brainchild of professor Ruslan Mitkov, senior lecturer Constantin Orasan and their research team at Wolverhampton. It now has further impetus after securing European funding to the tune of £2.8m over three years.

The system will be developed to work with the four languages of the participating research teams across Europe - from Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

Orasan said: "Similar research has been carried out before but the multi-language and multi-mode elements make this project unique."

The technology is being targeted at mobile phone users, although it will also work on PCs.

It could be used, for instance, to find a particular type of restaurant. A user could ask the system to locate an eatery via their mobile phone and should then receive the info on their mobile.

In contrast, users of more traditional search engines could still be trawling through pages of search results on their PC.

Orasan said: "Tourism is the main industry that can make use of the technology but there is also potential for multinational companies and medical services to use it."

Several tourist information bureaus and companies have already agreed to allow access to their data to aid the research.

The technology won't be exclusive to any company. Orasan said: "We are working with an open source architecture which will allow different companies to make use of the technology in the future."

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