Xerox works deal with start-up to rival Google

Xerox Corp. research subsidiary Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has struck a licensing deal with Powerset Inc. in San Francisco. The two are developing a search engine based on natural language processing, in hopes that they can take on Google with an end-of-the-year release. In addition to the licenses, Powerset also holds the patents to the technology and is funding the natural language processing research team's efforts at PARC while PARC receives equity in Powerset and royalties on company revenue. Powerset, which has raised $12.5 million in funding from various venture capital firms and angel investors, has been negotiating with PARC to use the technology the research firm developed since September 2005.

Powerset founder and CEO Barney Pell explained that a search engine powered by natural language processing technology, unlike typical search engines that index by keywords but do not understand their relationship, can accept queries written as people normally speak. For example, "What company did IBM acquire in 1996?" would directly answer the question without displaying every indexed site with the words "acquire," "IBM" and "1996". It's true the major Web search engines such as Google do question-and-answer type searches today, Pell said, but they are still mainly based on keywords. Researchers have been working for 30 years to come up with successful natural language processing technology, and Pell acknowledges the complexity of the challenge: "Enabling computers to extract meaning and relationships in text ... is an incredibly hard problem."

News source: ComputerWorld

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IBM made 4 acquisitions in 1996:

  • Tivoli Systems, Inc. for $743 million.
  • Data Sciences Ltd, UK for £95 million.
  • Object Technology International
  • Cyclade Consultants (Netherlands)

Lol, even with the hundreds if not thousands of search engines out there, i have only used google, and will still only use google ;P

what i dont like about natural language is that their results are too limited and a lot of times i dont even know how to word it properly such that a computer would understand. And I still dont trust letting a computer decide what my searches are for. IMO keyword search, if someone's sufficiently good at it, is still more useful than natural language search.

I can't see this beating Google. Even if the results are proven to be better than Google's, "Google" has become a household name. People who don't even use computers know what Google is. Xerox would have to establish that brand recognition before they can hope to succeed with this.

exactly like the ipod, there are tons of mp3 players out there with more features and lower prices, but the strong brand recognition apple has managed to create for the ipod always win over quality.

Lare2 said,
exactly like the ipod, there are tons of mp3 players out there with more features and lower prices, but the strong brand recognition apple has managed to create for the ipod always win over quality.

What like Yahoo! and Walkman?

The original idea behind Ask Jeeves was to allow users to get answers to questions posed in everyday, natural language. As time wore on and keyword search engines such as Google rose to prominence, indexing more webpages, Ask Jeeves suffered a loss of many of its users

From: Wikipedia

That was the idea for ask.com which didn't worked, so why venture into it again.