Get the Picture: Visualizing the Future of Search

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Taking Visual Search to the Next Dimension
Inxight is taking the graphical view of data to a new level with their Time Wall product, a futuristic looking 3D-graphical representation of data displayed on three panels. You can drag your mouse along the wall to move through time, or focus on a particular item. The tool includes a series of filters in the form of sliders and check boxes to provide a way to focus the graphical view to suit individual needs. It also uses colors to provide a way to recognize different types of information at a glance.

KartOO, meanwhile, has also developed an enterprise product after receiving requests from business customers to provide a graphical view of internal documents. In response to this, they developed several products, including a personalization module that monitors a user's searches and adjusts the results according to previous searches, and a monitoring tool that sends an email whenever a site you have been monitoring changes or new sites appear related to your area of interest.

Searching For the Future
Visual search engines certainly have a lot of pizzazz, but visual search tools need to be more than pretty interfaces to gain a real foothold alongside more tradition text search engines. Of course, they have to provide an easier way to view and access information. But they also need to provide reliable results while either becoming more familiar to end users or finding markets in which the end users are more visually-oriented. In the emerging visual search market, players are still finding their way. Currently, their strengths lie in the research tool market as opposed to pure-play, search-and-find tools, and, as such, they have the best chance to succeed in enterprises dealing with large amounts of information. As Antarctica's Bray says, "Generalized Web search is a very tough row to hoe."

Sidebar: Groxis—Visualizing on the Desktop

One company trying to buck the enterprise trend is Groxis, which is selling a $50 desktop visual search product called Grokker 2.0. Like the other tools in this market, it presents a visual map of the results by creating categories of results on the fly based on the query. Each circle on the graphical map (you can change the shape if you like) represents a different category. The tool even allows users to search locally on an individual computer hard drive, providing desktop visual search. "Grokker is a framework for information management," says Jean-Michel Decombe, co-founder and CTO at Groxis. Decombe sees Groxis as a way to augment information retrieval by adding a layer of intelligence that breaks down the information into more logical categories and presents it graphically to see the relationships between the categories better.

In addition, you can save your searches, and Grokker provides a whole level of customization with tools to change the look of the map, as well as filter, to show certain information such as only .org domains. Right now, Groxis supplies the filters, but they see the product as a framework for future development. Because they have built Groxis using plug-in technology, other developers can customize the product. "Groxis has lots of possibilities, but so far, we have unlocked only a few. There will be Grokker Pro within a year, which will allow you to build much larger representations. Grokker Pro will be more appropriate for business intelligence," Decombe says.

In the mean time, they are concentrating on the education market, where they see Grokker as a tool for aiding in research, while working toward more widespread use of the product. "We want the product to be liked and accepted and found useful, and then we will percolate throughout organizations," Decombe says.

Companies Featured in This Article
Antarctica Systems
Groxis, Inc.
KartOO Technologies
Search Engine Watch
TripleHop Technologies

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