True Knowledge, an innovative semantic answer engine that’s currently in closed beta, opened its API today. If you’re a developer, the API offers the enticing possibility of adding knowledge-based functionality to your apps.
Answer engines are different from search engines in that they provide answers to questions, rather than the ability to search for keywords in content. The True Knowledge application is a combination of an interpreter (which examines your query and turns it into a form that the app can use) and a knowledge base, which is expanded by its users over time. With a comprehensive enough knowledge base, True Knowledge should be able to answer nearly any question thrown at it.
While Google and other Internet search engines are good at searching existing web content, True Knowledge attempts to answer tricky queries such as “Is the Eiffel Tower older than St. Paul’s Cathedral?” or “Who was U.S. president when Obama was a teenager?” Finding answers to these types of questions usually takes several steps to get all the required facts with a traditional search engine, so a semantic answer engine should be a real time-saver and a helpful complement to existing search technology. Results gleaned from True Knowledge’s closed beta are often impressive, although there are some gaps in the knowledge base, especially for more esoteric questions (it had no information about me, for example).
The API offers two levels of access to the application: the Direct Answer Service just takes natural-language queries and returns answers, much like True Knowledge’s own web site, while the Query Service gives you more direct access to the knowledge base by letting you supply queries in True Knowledge’s proprietary query format. It’s quite likely that we’ll see results supplied by True Knowledge’s API inserted into other search engines’ results pages as a best first guess for question-type queries.
Would a semantic answer engine be useful for you?