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Searching for smarter search engines

Autonomy November 21, 1996
Web posted at: 5:45 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Greg Lefevre

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Electronic bloodhounds in the form of smarter, more sophisticated Internet search engines may sniff out the good from the bad in your next World Wide Web search.

"They'll do all sorts of interesting things, starting from going out into the Web and finding information for you (to) going to your e-mail and filtering for you (and) reading newspaper sites and creating a concise newspaper for you," said Richard Gaunt of Autonomy Inc.

Gaunt

Gaunt's company makes a new Internet search program called, appropriately enough, Autonomy.

Most current search engines simply scan the Web for word matches. A search for "Ford convertible," for example, brings up 292,000 items, including Web sites on President Ford.

But programs like Autonomy use "intelligent agents" to actually compare the meaning of words and find what you really want: information on a Mustang ragtop.

Bad searches are among 'Net surfers' biggest complaints. Even after trying different words andphrases, you can't always find what you want. And as more and more information goes onto the Web, searches only become more frustrating.

But the more you tell Autonomy, the better the search.

"The key to our technology is an aspect called a neural network which mimics the brain in the way it works," Gaunt said. "(It's) actually trainable and adapts to your interests and that's what gives our software this intelligent aspect that allows it to do sensible things on its own."

Sometimes Autonomy can tie up a computer. And occasionally, it can bring back too many matches.

In the near future, however, intelligent agents will be taught to work in reverse, too. Called "guardian agents," they'll be able to block unwanted items from any computer, such as pornography or junk e-mail.

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