February 10, 2007

New Search Engine May Understand Plain English

by Jan Harris

Google

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in California is licensing a broad portfolio of patents and technology to Powerset, a well-financed start-up company, with the aim of developing a search engine that could eventually compete with Google.

Powerset is licensing PARC’s “natural language” technology, which enables computers to understand and process languages like English or French. The technology would be the basis for a search engine which would understand search queries typed in plain English, rather than keywords.

Powerset raised $12.5m in autumn 2006, in its first round of financing from venture-capital firms and individual investors.

As part of the agreement, Ronald M. Kaplan, a leading natural-language researcher at PARC, will become Powerset’s chief technology and scientific officer and Powerset will sponsor a number of researchers at PARC.

PARC will also receive an equity stake in Powerset and earn royalties from the company.

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