The Bankwatch

Tracking the consumer evolution of financial services

Microsoft buys Powerset, and introduces new things for Bank web sites to consider

Why should Banks think about the Microsoft acquisition of Powerset, a natural language search engine?

Powerset brings together a unique combination of scientific work in Artificial Intelligence, and Natural Language Analysis.

Interview With Barney Pell and Ramez Naam About Microsoft’s Powerset Acquisition: Integration By End Of Year

BP: I guess one way to think about it is like when you are learning how to diagram sentences in elementary school. You draw these trees of a sentence and find here is the noun phrase and a noun phrase has a determiner like “the” and then it has a noun like “dog” and here is a verb phrase, and it might have a verb like “barks” and then what does it mean for the that word, bark is a verb and it has a “S” at the end and the way that it works, which we call morphology, that’s the present tense of that verb. And then the whole sentence is composed of those pieces, and so the meaning is built out of those. So you draw these diagrams when you are learning how to do it. And the kind of knowledge that’s in a natural language processing system like Powerset is using is sort of like that.

Banks web pages are notoriously marketing oriented, with terminology that does not sound like poeples conversations:

  • Savings & CDs Start Saving Today
  • A great way to start saving — open your account with as little as $25
    • Free Checking Online
    • No monthly maintenance fee
    • No minimum balance required
    • No charge for using ATMs from another financial institution

These short bullets are a typical selection of how Banks communicate with customers online, and people have become used to reading those bullet form selections to uncover the nature of a Bank product.

The implication is that the new search methods may not naturally read the bullets in the right context, and “no monthly maintenance fee” for example, may not get associated with “Checking Accounts”.

Relevance to Bankwatch:
Natural language works, as I understand it, in development of meaning
within sentences. Having read Pell’s description of the system, and
considering this will comprise Microsoft’s search sometime in the next
year or two, it will be worthwhile to start thinking about the
evolution of search, and development of web pages.

Written by Colin Henderson

July 2, 2008 at 10:20

Posted in microsoft

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