Powerset’s Natural Language Search Goes Live

Powerset logoPowerset went live today with the fruit of several months of research on natural language processing and semantics. They’ve been highly anticipated and the ride to this day has been up and down. I joined their private beta late last year and at the time there were many things unperfected; the whole venture suffering for it at the hands of critics. And high expectations are often the case when products pack more intelligence.

But it certainly looks like they’ve made significant advances judging from some test queries.

Powerset Frontpage Screenshot

The engine is similar to Twine in that it utilizes semantic metadata to process queries and reason. But that’s about all they have in common — they use the metadata to provide very different services.

Powerset’s first product is a search and discovery experience for Wikipedia, launched in May 2008. Powerset’s technology improves the entire search process. In the search box, you can express yourself in keywords, phrases, or simple questions. On the search results page, Powerset gives more accurate results, often answering questions directly, and aggregates information from across multiple articles.
[About Powerset]

It will be exciting to see how the titans of this first wave semantic web startups will band together in the near future. Powerset and Twine both utilize Wikipedia, and Powerset uses Freebase information. If I’m not mistaken I seem to remember the CEOs of Twine and Freebase mentioning potential collaboration at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco last year; and its not too hard to envision how that could be mutually beneficial.

Here are some interesting test queries and commentary. But I recommend you head over there yourself to try it out; share with us the voes and virtues. Note that these are only the ones that worked!

When did Albert Einstein die?

Powerset results for the date when Einstein died

This one came as a nice surprise because I remembered having seen a beta bug report where “die” returned results in German pages. But this time it resulted in the nice date icon and a list of Wikipedia pages.

Who played Doctor Who?

Powerset results for Doctor Who actors

A little play with words resulted in a nice, AJAX rich list of all the Doctors! The same list popped up when I added “… in 2004?”.

Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson in Powerset search results

Here’s a nice and data rich result from Freebase showing birthdate, place of birth, books published, etc.


Powerset results for Fractal

We can see the different types of fields and related concepts. “Complex systems” returned a similar summary but included another tab titled “Journal” that displayed information on a scientific journal with this name.

A handful of results weren’t quite as elegant, but it’s safe to say that this is a great start for Powerset.

Links & References

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2 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Thanks for the article, these are some great examples. You should poke around the Factz a bit, there are some cool ones for Neal Stephenson (e.g. Neal Stephenson described Metaverse)

    Also, thanks for participating in Powerlabs!

    {mark} powerset product manager

  2. You’re welcome Mark! Thanks for a great product and for dropping by. I’ll definitely be doing more experiments in the near future.

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