The Information Superhighway, when it finally takes shape, will make accessible a sea of information. But navigating through all that stuff without drowning won't be easy, especially for the millions of folks who haven't spent a lot of time doing database queries.
That's the thinking behind ConText, a new program from database-software maker Oracle Corp. It works essentially by speed-reading through text and analyzing its content and meaning. This is made possible by a 600,000-word dictionary--three times the size of a standard dictionary. In addition, 500,000 parsing rules break down and analyze sentence structure to help glean meaning.
Oracle envisions ConText being used to highlight key parts of electronic documents, condense text down to a few themes, and automatically create indexes to documents. It also provides the basis for "intelligent agents," programs that could use the contextual understanding to seek out information tailored to a particular need. Jerry Held, senior vice-president for Oracle's Interactive Multimedia Products, believes the ConText technology will give Oracle an edge over other Infobahn hopefuls. "ConText will differentiate us from other companies that are just pumping information out to TVs," he says. Held adds that Oracle plans to license ConText to key players in the Infobahn biz.