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Newsletter September 24, 2001

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Ask a simple question, get a simple answer

Research shows that the vast majority of Internet searches are done using just one keyword. But a search for "cars" brings up 7 squillion pages on any respectable search engine which one has the information you want? Of course, constructing a neat search query using Boolean operators may help. But the collection of ANDs, ORs, NOTs and other contortions that search engines expect you to use isn't particularly user-friendly, is it? Why isn't it possible to just ask a normal question, such as "Where can I buy a new car?", and get a normal answer, including maybe a list of dealerships in your town?

Natural language search agents seek to provide a solution. With Ask Jeeves or Subjex, to name only the most well-known, type your question in everyday, human-style language and let the agent take the responsibility for finding the right answer. Like many chatterbots, natural language search agents use the meaningful words in your sentence to try to match the query to an question and answer already stored in their database, with a link to a selection of appropriate web pages. Often, the agent returns a series of questions to refine your query, to increase the chance of giving you precisely what you want.

Though natural language search agents can be fairly easily bamboozled for now they only give the impression of understanding your question - it is surprising how well they can handle common queries. So if you have a question in mind and are fed up of combing pages of (interesting but irrelevant) results, try one out for yourself on AgentLand:


> Defining agents by Carlo Revelli
Based on their attributes, some researchers have tried to draw up a typology of agents. Among the most interesting, it is necessary to mention the work of Hyacinth S. Nwana. This researcher at the British Telecom laboratory started by identifying a series of criteria in order to define the various classes of agents.


> Zapper: zap boring searches!
With a single click, Zapper pops up from your computer to help you during you search. Fast, light and efficient, Zapper is waiting for just one thing: to be personalized!

> Audiogalaxy : a new swapping universe
Desperate to find the MP3 file of your favorite song? Tired of using search engines, or randomly surfing sites with little chance of success? Thinking of canceling your ISP subscription, selling off your computer? Stop!!! Try out the peer-to-peer galaxy...


>> File sharing <<

> The Qube
The Qube is a file sharing system that allows you to share any type of file with anybody on the Qube network. You can also communicate via text messaging and chat with others connected to the same server. You can even copy (rip) CD tracks to MP3s and view and listen to files all right inside the Qube.

> KaZaA Winamp Plug-in
KaZaA is a media community, where the community members can share their media files with each other. The KaZaA Winamp plug-in works with your Winamp player to help you find MP3 files on KaZaA's peer-to-peer community and play them directly in Winamp.

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> Internet Graphics Finder
Internet Graphics Finder is a graphics program for the 32-bit Windows environment. It can search, scan for, view, print and save image files available on the Internet or local computer or network.


> Robots are used to find survivors in NY
Dozens of tiny Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) robots are being used to search for survivors in the rubble of the World Trade Center buildings in New York.
USAR focuses on locating and extracting people trapped in collapsed or damaged structures. Rescuing can be as dangerous to the workers and the victims as the initial event. Moving through the structure or widening entry points for humans and equipment can cause further collapse, injuring or killing the trapped survivors or rescuers. Gas leaks and explosions are also possible.
Rescue dogs can help reduce human risk and can enter smaller voids in the rubble than a human can, but they cannot replace video camera or structural-assessment equipment.


> International Symposium on Wearable Computers
The 5th International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC2001) will be held on October 7-9, 2001 in Zurich, Switzerland.
The purpose of ISWC is to bring together researchers, product vendors, research sponsors, and others to share information and advances in wearable computing. The conference will include presentations, exhibitions, demos, poster sessions, and fashion shows.
The main topics of discussion will include devices, interfaces, context awareness and modelling, smart textiles and fashion.

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