[unrev-II] Microsoft MindNet: Natural Language Processing

From: John J. Deneen (jjdeneen@netzero.net)
Date: Fri Sep 21 2001 - 16:53:30 PDT

  • Next message: Henry K van Eyken: "Re: [unrev-II] Fwd: [PORT-L] Fwd: Microsoft's Secret Files - on YOUR PC"

    Natural Language Processing
    < http://www.technologyreview.com/magazine/jan01/tr10_jensen.asp >

    Emerging from the laboratories, moreover, is a new generation of
    interfaces that will allow us to engage computers in extended
    conversation—an activity that requires a dauntingly complex integration
    of speech recognition, natural-language understanding, discourse
    analysis, world knowledge, reasoning ability and speech generation. It's
    true that the existing prototypes can only talk about such well-defined
    topics as weather forecasts (MIT's Jupiter), or local movie schedules
    (Carnegie Mellon's Movieline). But the Defense Advanced Research
    Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on wide-ranging conversational
    interfaces that will ultimately include pointing, gesturing and other
    forms of visual communication as well.

    Parallel efforts are under way at industry giants such as IBM and
    Microsoft, which see not only immediate applications for computer users
    who need to keep their hands and eyes free but also the rapid evolution
    of speech-enabled "intelligent environments." The day is coming when
    every object big enough to hold a chip actually has one. We'd better be
    able to talk these objects because very few of them will have room for a

    Getting there will be a huge challenge—but that's exactly what attracts
    investigators like Karen Jensen, the gung-ho chief of the Natural
    Language Processing group at Microsoft Research. Says Jensen: "I can't
    imagine anything that would be more thrilling, or carry more potential
    for the future, than to make it possible for us to truly interact with
    our computers. That would be so exciting!"

    Such declarations are typical of Jensen, who at 62 remains as exuberant
    about technology's promise as any teenager—and just as ready to keep
    hacker's hours. Indeed, Jensen was one of the first people Microsoft
    hired when it opened its research lab in 1991. Along with colleagues
    Stephen Richardson and George Heidorn, she arrived at the Redmond,
    Wash., campus from IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center, where they
    had worked on some of the earliest grammar-checking software, and
    immediately started building a group that now numbers some 40 people.

    In Redmond, Jensen and her colleagues soon found themselves contributing
    to the natural-language query interface for Microsoft's Encarta
    encyclopedia and to the grammar checker that first appeared in Word 97.
    And now, she says, they've begun to focus all their efforts on a unique
    technology known as MindNet. MindNet is a system for automatically
    extracting a massively hyperlinked web of concepts from, say, a standard
    dictionary. If a dictionary defines "motorist" as "a person who drives a
    car," for example, MindNet will use its automatic parsing technology to
    find the definition's underlying logical structure, identifying
    "motorist" as a kind of person, and "drives" as a verb taking motorist
    as a subject and car as an object. The result is a conceptual network
    that ties together all of human understanding in words, says Jensen.

    The very act of putting this conceptual network into a computer takes
    the machine a long way toward "understanding" natural language. For
    example, to figure out that "Please arrange for a meeting with John at
    11 o'clock" means the same thing as "Make an appointment with John at
    11," the computer simply has to parse the two sentences and show that
    they both map to the same logical structures in MindNet. "It's not
    perfect grokking," Jensen concedes. "But it's a darn good first step."

    MindNet also promises to be a powerful tool for machine translation,
    Jensen says. The idea is to have MindNet create separate conceptual webs
    for English and another language, Spanish, for example, and then align
    the webs so that the English logical forms match their Spanish
    equivalents. MindNet then annotates these matched logical forms with
    data from the English-Spanish translation memory, so that translation
    can proceed smoothly in either direction.

    Indeed, says Jensen, who is now in the process of passing on the
    leadership of the group to the younger generation, MindNet seems to tie
    together everything they've been doing for the past nine years: "All we
    see is doors opening. We don't see any closing!"

    NetZero Platinum
    Only $9.95 per month!
    Sign up in September to win one of 30 Hawaiian Vacations for 2!

    ------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor ---------------------~-->
    Get your FREE VeriSign guide to security solutions for your web site: encrypting transactions, securing intranets, and more!

    Community email addresses:
      Post message: unrev-II@onelist.com
      Subscribe: unrev-II-subscribe@onelist.com
      Unsubscribe: unrev-II-unsubscribe@onelist.com
      List owner: unrev-II-owner@onelist.com

    Shortcut URL to this page:

    Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0.0 : Fri Sep 21 2001 - 16:43:26 PDT