Call it “anticipatory computing,” or “information gravitation” or whatever you want, but it appears the future of search isn’t search at all. Rather, next-generation applications will surface the information we need when we need it — whether we know we need it or not.
And although there’s a semantic element to it, this is beyond the realm of semantic search. We’re talking about doing a video chat, sending an email or just surfing the web, and seeing relevant content appear before your eyes. Why? Because the web and, heck, even our laptops are so full of information we don’t always know what to look for or have the extra attention to devote to looking for it.
Most recently, I spoke with Christopher Eakins, CEO of a company called Grapple Data that wants to revolutionize desktop search. Presently, the company’s flagship product, called Aikin, is doing something similar to semantic search on the surface. It’s responding to searches with a list of files, emails, contacts or other content — ranked by relevance — that a standard keyword search wouldn’t detect.
He says the product addresses the problem of information workers “being force-fed more than we can chew,” often across applications that don’t interact with each other at all. One might think of Aikin, he said, as a device that records, indexes and keeps track of everything you do on your machine, so you don’t have to remember specific file names, people or even keywords later on. If you have an idea what you’re looking for, it will find that content and then some.
Going forward, though, Eakins hopes Grapple can do away with desktop search altogether, or at least make it less necessary. That’s where the real innovation comes in. He wants to enable what he calls “information gravitation,” where relevant content would start to surface based on the subject of an email someone is typing, for example. It’s like those targeted ads in Gmail, only in real-time and, presumably valuable to users.
I first came across the concept in April 2012 while covering a company called PureDiscovery. Historically dedicated to semantic search and indexing within large corporate datasets, PureDiscovery CEO Dave Copps explained the company’s plans for going much, much bigger. Essentially — first within corporate networks and then across the entire web — it wants to teach is BrainSpace software to learn how people and pieces of content are related and then surface both automatically based on who you follow, what your interests are or even what text you highlight on a web page.
The plan appears to be coming along. The web part, which is definitely a bigger-picture undertaking, seems to have materialized in the form of a beta-mode application called Grokkit. (I’m still waiting for my invite.)
There’s also the work that Expect Labs is doing around its MindMeld application, which my colleague Om Malik lauded as “herald[ing] the era of anticipatory computing.” MindMeld is a video-chat application that also uses voice recognition and some serious data analysis to figure out what a conversation is about and surface relevant information related to that from the web or users’ social graphs. It also tries to predict where a conversation is going and queue up content that it thinks will be relevant in the future.
The point of all of this stuff — and even some of what we’re seeing in the enterprise IT world with startups like Ayasdi and BeyondCore — is that people don’t always know what they’re looking for or the right queries to enter in order to find it. If more information (or at least more relevant information) really is better, this should be a welcome trend.
Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user photobank.kiev.ua.