Tuesday, June 30, 2009

DARPA Hires Company to Build a Machine Reader That Scours the Web

DARPA Hires Company to Build a Machine Reader That Scours the Web

DARPA_logo.gifThe intelligence community is inputting data to the Web at an amazing rate. That mountain of data can be overwhelming to mere humans who are trying to read through pages and pages of information to pinpoint exactly what they're after. Mark Rutherford of CNET News reports that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has hired a tech company to develop a reader that will scour the Web and render certain information and knowledge into a form that is more easily digested and usable.

Sponsor

BBN Technologies was recently awarded a $29.7 million contract to develop a universal text engine that will capture intelligence and render it usable to humans as well as artificial intelligence (AI) systems. Officially called the Machine Reading Program, this new system will "automatically monitor the technological and political activities of nation states and transnational organizations - which could mean everything from al-Qaeda to the U.N." for the US military. BBN expects there may also be many useful civilian applications for its new reader. The company has also developed a real-time audio stream called the the BBN Broadcast Monitoring System that automatically transcribes real-time audio streams and translates them into English.

With this new project, BBN hopes to "develop techniques that can generalize across the linguistic structure and content of diverse documents to extract relations and axioms directly from text rather than relying on a knowledge engineer to encode such information." Here's how it will work:

DARPAreader_chart.jpg

Although it is not immediately clear when (or if) this new machine reader will be available to civilians, we are certainly looking forward to trying something like this out. Some paranoid types will believe this is nothing more than "the man" trying to spy on us, but those people need to realize everything we do online is being watched by someone. If you are really concerned about your online privacy you should secure important data on your computer, call your government leaders and try to change privacy laws, or stay off the Web altogether.

Researchers, medical professionals, consumers, students and others are all likely to benefit from such an application. Not having to spend unnecessary time searching through mountains of information on the Web for something relevant makes life easier and allows us to be more productive.

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