|InfoVis.net>Magazine>message nº 97||Published 2002-08-19|
|También disponible en Español|
The digital magazine of InfoVis.net
A new meta search engine, KartOO, was launched on April 25th, 2002. It’s based on a technology developed for 3 years by Laurent Baleydier and his team, from the company Kartoo.S.A. constituted in 2001 and successor of Alcyon Interactive Company
KartOO is programmed in Flash although you have an optional traditional HTML interface. As in any search engine you find a command line waiting for you typing the query you are interested in. Once you click on OK, KartOO launches the query to a set of search engines, gathers the results, compiles them and represents them in a series of interactive maps through a proprietary algorithm.
The graphic presentation shows the 10 (or the number you choose) first results as balls, its size being proportional to the relative relevance. When you hover on top of the ball, a short description returned by the link is shown. If you want to see more results, another map appears just by clicking on the appropriate link, as in any typical search engine.
What makes KartOO interesting is that it elaborates the so called semantic links between results. Those links are represented by sinuous lines that link the balls. Amidst said lines you find a word that is the one the algorithm considers that links both results semantically. By hovering on top of it you can highlight the related balls. When hovering over the ball you can see all its related semantic links highlighted. Curiously enough, there aren’t links among the successive maps you can ask for.
Each word has a plus (+) and a minus (–) sign. Clicking one or the other, KartOO restarts the meta search including or excluding the word in the query accordingly to the sign picked.
KartOO is a technology of visual representation of meta searches. As such, the meta search engine is only the showroom of a series of products addressed to companies interested in the information retrieval of its data bases, intranet, etc. The product range can be found at KartOO's website.
The idea behind KartOO is not a new one, although its algorithms and graphical representation are new. For example, map.net has a visualisation system that, as a showroom, allows you to search visually in the Open Directory Project. It also has products oriented to the corporative world that use its own technology.
Visual search has the enormous advantage of catching your gaze. You have all the stuff in front of your eyes and you can identify relevant results attending to stimulus like size, lines and colours.
Nevertheless, despite the good services offered by KartOO and Map.net, among others, I still find what I’m looking for earlier with Google, which leaves me somewhat upset.
Maybe the problem is not the chosen visual representation but that we continue doing the same thing (finding a relevance ordered list of results), only representing it visually. It reminds me of when we talk about “computerising” an inefficient process by doing the same process, just much quicker, by computer, instead of seizing the opportunity to adapt the process to the new system.
Perhaps visual representations will begin to predominate in information retrieval when they show things that we can not see in the ordered list. The semantic links of KartOO are an incipient step forward in this sense.
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