Natural language processing is a field which is entirely dedicated to studying the interaction between computers and humans, and has gained greater popularity after the creation of Siri, Apple’s intelligent personal assistant for iOS, or Dragon, a speech recognition software from the company Nuance. The task of making computers understand different languages has been a complex one, which still has not been developed fully, especially due to the size of each language’s vocabulary and their complex syntax. The new project SkyPhrase, founded by Nick Cassimatis, is facing the challenge differently, relying on innovation and engineering within an academic environment.
SkyPhrase’s team is made up of researchers and professors from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who are developing artificial intelligence technology that promises to be a more holistic way to help computers understand our language. The different members of the group have years of experience working with artificial intelligence and language and are now trying to transfer some of that linguistic knowledge to computers. The goals of the project are to enhance the application of natural language processing, as well as making the development of natural language interfaces easier.
Technology and Linguistics
According to Cassimatis, SkyPhrase combines the two paths that have been taken by other natural language processors so far: brute force and reasoning methods. Their algorithms are trying to emulate reasoning so that computers are able to analyse the variety of questions and sentences that languages offer. The focus is put on the meaning of each particular item so that the overall meaning can then be built in a progressive manner. In this way, computers are not limited to a set of fixed phrases, like many of the current systems, and can therefore “understand” humans better. According to Cassimatis, SkyPhrase’s answers are accurate and relevant 90 percent of the time.
Current SkyPhrase Applications
SkyPhrase has released two applications to test and help further develop their technologies. One of them is a searching tool aimed at simplifying the use of Google Analytics by dealing with simple commands such as “show me the most viewed pages in the last two days”. The other one is an app for fantasy football fans. These tools reflect Cassamitis’s view that the internet is full of important data which is too difficult to access because the right questions are not being asked or are too expensive to be asked.
Sponsors and Development
Research is being sponsored by Breakout Labs, an investment company that supports cutting-edge projects which are generally too risky for traditional investors. Natural language processing has yet to be developed into a more useful technological tool, and this is precisely the goal towards which both Breakout Labs and SkyPhrase are working.