Economist on Microsoft search

The Economist takes a look at Ask MSR, Dr. Eric Brill‘s attempt to deliver a direct answer to a search question. “Ask MSR is still a prototype, although Microsoft is trying to improve it and it may be launched commercially under the name AnswerBot.” Eric Brill and Radu Soricut recently authored a paper on factoid questions.

We build our QA system around a noisy-channel architecture which exploits both a language model for answers and a transformation model for answer/question terms, trained on a corpus of 1 million question/answer pairs collected from the Web. Our evaluations show that our system achieves reasonable performance in terms of answer accuracy for a large variety of complex, non-factoid questions.