Microsoft & Powerset Combine Innovations

Posted on in Blog

Last May, I wrote about Powerset, a new, alternative search engine that boasted improvements to the way we find information by unlocking the meaning behind ordinary language. My exact words: “This Powerset version allows users to search against material within Wikipedia using natural language.”

Since the launch, Powerset has gone through some changes and was recently bought by Microsoft. The higher-ups at Microsoft were impressed with Powerset’s capabilities and interface innovations, so they teamed up to create a shared vision:

To take Search to the next level by adding understanding of the intent and meaning behind the words in searches and webpages.

Today, Powerset continues to forge ahead with that same goal in mind. Over the last few months, teams from Powerset and Microsoft’s Live Search have collaborated on ideas and designs, and have come up with several projects that will be released over the next 30 days.

These projects were designed with the goal of improving Live Search and Powerset simultaneously by integrating technologies from both search engines. So, without further ado, I would like to introduce three new projects from the collaboration efforts of Powerset and Live Search.

Freebase Answers

This Wikipedia-like project is open to anyone who would like to contribute information; it is “an open, shared database of the world’s information.” Microsoft is utilizing Freebase in order to provide expanded and improved answers for Live Search. A lot of search results today don’t show answers for topical queries such as musicians, albums, and films, but by using Freebase, Live Search is able to return a topic summary that includes links, a result very similar to the Freebase Answers in Powerset.

Improved Wikipedia Captions

Another one of Powerset’s nifty features is that it utilizes semantic technology in order to create improved Wikipedia captions for various articles. And, with the help of Powerset, Live Search will now be able to pull these improved captions into its search result pages that include Wikipedia results.

The Factz Engine

“Factz” from Powerset are concise representations of information that are taken from sentences using three parts; the subject, the relation, and the object. From those parts, a list containing related searches for a set of queries is generated. For example, a search for “chicken recipes” will generate the following list of “Related Searches”:

  • Baked Chicken Recipes
  • Oven Baked Chicken Recipes
  • Easy Chicken Recipes
  • Chicken Soup Recipes
  • Low Fat Chicken Recipes
  • Lemon Chicken Recipe
  • Fried Chicken Recipes
  • Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

These projects are currently being tested on a small, randomly selected audience, so any search at could potentially contain one of the above projects as a bonus tidbit of information. Microsoft and Powerset say that they will continue to work together to help improve each other, and I will be here to report the results back to you! So, until then!

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