How START works!
START Natural Language System
is a software system designed to
answer questions that are posed to it in natural language. START
parses incoming questions, matches the queries created from the parse
trees against its knowledge base and presents the appropriate
information segments to the user. In this way, START provides
untrained users with speedy access to knowledge that in many cases
would take an expert some time to find.
START (SynTactic Analysis using Reversible Transformations) was
developed by Boris Katz at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
Currently, the system is undergoing further development by the InfoLab
Group, led by Boris Katz. START was first connected to the World Wide
Web in December, 1993, and in its several forms has to date answered
millions of questions from users around the world.
A key technique called "natural language annotation" helps START
connect information seekers to information sources. This technique
employs natural language sentences and phrases -- annotations -- as
descriptions of content that are associated with information segments
at various granularities. An information segment is retrieved when
its annotation matches an input question. This method allows START to
handle all variety of media, including text, diagrams, images, video
and audio clips, data sets, Web pages, and others.
The natural language processing component of START consists of two
modules that share the same grammar. The understanding module
analyzes English text and produces a knowledge base that encodes
information found in the text. Given an appropriate segment of the
knowledge base, the generating module produces English sentences.
Used in conjunction with the technique of natural language annotation,
these modules put the power of sentence-level natural language
processing to use in the service of multi-media information access.
For more information on the START system see
"From Sentence Processing to Information Access on the World Wide Web,"
AAAI Spring Symposium on Natural Language Processing for the World Wide Web,
Stanford University, Stanford CA (1997).
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