Title:
Information repository and answering system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Information repository and answering system. Memory structure stores computer-executable process steps and information input by a user in plain language. A processor executes the process steps to (1) store the user input information in a repository linked to the user; (2) to retrieve the user input information; and (3) to answer a query input by the user.



Inventors:
Roche, Emmanuel (Belmont, MA, US)
Schabes, Yves (Newton, MA, US)
Application Number:
11/376528
Publication Date:
09/20/2007
Filing Date:
03/15/2006
Primary Class:
1/1
Other Classes:
707/E17.058, 707/999.002
International Classes:
G06F17/30
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LIAO, JASON G
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Williams Mullen (Virginia Beach, VA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. Information repository and answering system comprising: memory structure for storing computer-executable process steps and information input by a user in plain language; and a processor that executes the process steps to (1) store the user input information in a repository linked to the user; (2) to retrieve the user input information; and (3) to answer a query input by the user.

2. The system of claim 1 further including means for specifying user names within different systems.

3. The system of claim 1 further including means for creating additional repositories.

4. The system of claim 1 further including means for allowing other users access to the information input by the user.

5. The system of claim 4 wherein the access is read only.

6. The system of claim 5 wherein the access includes write permission.

7. The system of claim 4 further including giving other users permission to grant other persons access.

8. The system of claim 1 wherein the repository is accessed through an instant messaging gateway.

9. The system of claim 1 wherein the repository is accessed through a web gateway.

10. The system of claim 1 wherein the repository is accessed through an SMS gateway.

11. The system of claim 1 further including means for receiving a query in plain language and providing an answer.

12. Information repository and answering system comprising: memory structure for storing computer-executable process steps and information input by a user in plain language; and a processor that executes the process steps to (1) recognize whether the user input is an information seeking query or a statement; (2) store the user input information in a repository linked to the user when the user input is recognized as a statement; (3) retrieve the user input information when the user input is recognized as an information seeking query.

13. The system of claim 12 in which the information repository is a search index.

14. The system of claim 12 in which the information repository is a question-answering system.

15. The system of claim 12 wherein the repository is accessed through an instant messaging gateway.

16. The system of claim 1 wherein the repository is accessed through a web gateway.

17. The system of claim 1 wherein the repository is accessed through an SMS gateway.

18. The system of claim 1 further including means for receiving a query in plain language and providing an answer.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to an information repository and query answering system and more particularly to a system utilizing a web gateway, instant messaging (chat) gateway or an SMS (cell phone) gateway.

A search and index hosting system is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,336,116 and is directed to a method and system for configuring a computerized searching system so that the searching system can be used to host searches of a database defined by a database provider. The database includes one or more documents. Thus, this prior art patent provides a way to search through a database at one network site, for example, a web site, using a host computer which is at another network site. By hosting the search at the separate site, the technology in the '116 patent facilitates site-specific searching. See also U.S. Pat. No. 6,651,065 and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/377,562 filed Feb. 28, 2003; Ser. No. 10/305,221 filed Nov. 26, 2002; and Ser. No. 09/845,571 filed Apr. 30, 2001. The contents of these patents and pending applications are incorporated herein in their entirety by reference.

It is often desirable to be able to add information in plain language to a database so that the information can be retrieved later. The systems described above, however, do not permit a user to add information in plain language to a database that can later be retrieved by the user or others granted permission by the user.

It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide an information repository and query answering system that can be implemented on a web gateway, an instant messaging system gateway or an SMS (short message service) gateway allowing users to create a personal information repository.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The information repository and answering system according to one aspect of the invention includes memory structure for storing computer-executable process steps and information input by a user in plain language. A processor executes the process steps to store the user input information in a repository linked to the user, to retrieve the user input information, or to answer a query input by the user. In a preferred embodiment, the system includes means for specifying user names within different systems. The system may also include means for creating additional repositories and for allowing other users access to the information input by the user.

In one embodiment, the access to other users is read-only and in another embodiment access includes write permission. In still another embodiment, the system allows giving other users permission to grant access to yet other persons.

In still other embodiments the repository is accessed through a web gateway, an instant messaging system gateway or an SMS gateway. In still another embodiment of the invention, means are provided for receiving a query in plain language and providing an answer.

In another aspect, the information repository and answering system includes memory structure for storing computer-executable process steps and information input by a user in plain language. A processor executes the process steps to recognize whether the user input is an information seeking query or a statement, to store the user input information in a repository linked to the user when the user input is recognized as a statement, and to retrieve the user information when the user input is recognized as an information seeking query. In a preferred embodiment of this aspect of the invention, the information repository is a search index or a question-answering system. The repository may be accessed through an instant messaging gateway.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING

FIG. 1 is a block diagram of an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram relating to an embodiment of the converser used in an embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 3-27 are screen shots illustrating aspects of embodiments of the invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

With reference first to FIG. 1, the system of the invention can be used with a web gateway 10, a chat or instant messaging gateway 12 or an SMS-cell phone gateway 14. An account management access control module 16 interacts with an account database 18 to receive a query or statement to generate a query plus a GAD-ID (GAD identifier). As used herein, GAD is the term used for the information repositories that are established according to the invention. A converser 20 determines whether a user input is a query or a new piece of information. If the input is a new piece of information an “add to index module” 22 adds the information to a search index module 24. On the other hand, if the user input is a query then the output of the converser 20 goes to a search module 26 and then to the search index 24.

FIG. 2 elaborates on the converser 20. A “user input+GAD-ID” element 28 is connected to a module 30 that determines whether the user input is a new piece of information (statement) or a query. If the answer to the question “is it a statement?” is “no” then the search query 26 is activated. If the answer to the question is “yes” then the statement is added to the index 24. Module 30 determines whether the user input is a statement or a query by first determining whether the user input starts with question words (such as “who”, “whom”, “which”, “where”, “how”, “to whom”, “to who”, “in which”, etc.). If the user input starts with question words, the user input is determined to be a query. Otherwise, the user query is further processed to determine whether it matches an information seeking simple query (such as “Bob's phone number” or “Oregon Senators”) as described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/305,221 filed Nov. 26, 2002 and entitled “Method for Detecting and Fulfilling an Information Need Corresponding to Simple Queries.” If the user query does match an information seeking simple query, the techniques described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/845,571 filed Apr. 30, 2001 and entitled “System for Answering Natural Language Questions” is used to determine if the user input is a statement. Otherwise, the remaining non-recognized user input by the previous steps, will be identified as queries in some embodiments or statements in other embodiments (depending on the user preference).

An exemplary embodiment of the invention will now be described in conjunction with FIGS. 3-27 which will give an overview of the GAD system of the invention. First of all, FIGS. 3-23 will be described that relate to GADs without question answering. Thereafter, FIGS. 24-27 will address GADs with question answering.

FIG. 3 illustrates an entry screen. In FIG. 3, the user can either sign up for a new account or login into the system if the user already has signed up. A user clicks on “Sign Up” that generates the screen shown in FIG. 4 and allows the entry of a new user name and password. In FIG. 4 the user chooses as user name “er2”, enters a password for his login, also enters his email address (er@mycomp.com). After entering this information and submitting to the system, a new user has been created. Once a user is created one can immediately start adding information to the default information repository (i.e., GAD) which is named after the user name (in this case the user name is “er2”). As shown in FIG. 5, the GAD associated by default to this user is called “er2-gad.” Note that in FIG. 5 a box appears with the instruction to “Ask a question or enter a fact.” As shown in FIG. 6, the user has entered the fact “my phone extension is 223.” The system answers by acknowledging that the statement has been added to “er2-gad” as shown in FIG. 7.

The user can then search the data immediately as shown in FIG. 8. As shown in FIG. 8, the user enters “phone” into the box and the system responds with “my phone extension is 223 (according to the GAD er2-gad).” Using this interaction, the user could continue adding or retrieving information from the same web interface. The user has also the option to interact with the GAD using an instant messaging interface. When the user then clicks on “Account Settings” in the upper right-hand portion of FIG. 8, the screen in FIG. 9 appears that allows the user to specify user names within different instant messaging systems such as AOL, MSN and Yahoo. FIG. 10 shows that the user has added AOL and MSN user names. In particular, the AOL and MSN user names (erochetg@aol.com and er@msn.com) entered in FIG. 10 are also user names for AOL instant messaging and MSN instant messaging which will allow the user to interact with the GAD system using instant messaging by associating the GAD user name with the different instant messaging systems user names as we will explain at a later point.

Another functionality revealed in FIG. 10 allows the user to view and change the informational content of the GAD. In FIG. 10 under the GAD headline, the list of GADs associated with the user are listed. In general, more than one GAD can be associated with a user. A GAD can also exist independently of any user. In this case, one GAD (er2-gad) is associated with the user. If one clicks on “er2-gad”/“view” in FIG. 10, the screen shown in FIG. 11 appears that summarizes the information about the GAD “er2-gad”. In particular, the screen in FIG. 11 shows all the statements that have been added. At this point, there is only one statement.

A user can also create a new GAD from the screen of FIG. 10 by clicking on the “create” link that will generate the screen shown in FIG. 12. The name of a new GAD that the user wishes to create is typed resulting in a new GAD “company-gad” as shown in FIG. 12.

FIG. 13 now shows that two GADs are available, namely, “er2-gad” and “company-gad”. Clicking on the “Query” link in FIG. 13 results in FIG. 14 that has two GADs available in the drop down menu. New statements may be added to the “company-gad” by typing statements in FIG. 14 when company gad is selected. For example, from FIG. 14, the user can query any of the two GADs or add information from any of the two GADs. For example, the user adds “John phone extension is 224” to company-gad by typing this fact and selecting “company-gad” in the drop down menu in FIG. 14. Similarly, the user can add “Er phone extension is 223” to company-gad.

Similarly, statements can be retrieved by typing queries into FIG. 14 while “company-gad” is selected. For example, by typing “phone” in the box as shown in FIG. 15 the system retrieves the two statements added to the “company-gad”.

At this point the user “er2” who created both GADs is the only person that can both access and write new information both to “er2-gad” and “company-gad”. The system enables the user to specify permission such as read, write and administration permissions on each GAD owned by the user. For example, user “er2” can decide to share the information in the “company-gad” in the following way. First, the user may click on “Account Settings” that is useful for creating an information repository that can be accessed by a group of people. Examples are people within a company, a family or community. The screen in FIG. 16 appears and the user then clicks on “view” next to “company-gad” that results in the screen shown in FIG. 17. One then clicks on “add” under “Users/Actions”. That then results in the screen shown in FIG. 18. The user then adds a name such as “bill” to the “company-gad”. Clicking on “Submit” brings up the screen of FIG. 19 that shows that user “bill” has read access permission to “company-ad”. This means that Bill can look for existing information but not add information himself. This can be changed by clicking on “read”.

At this point, the user can decide to give Bill either “write” permissions (being able to add statements) or “admin” permissions which would allow Bill to invite other persons as shown in FIG. 20.

The same information repository (GAD) can be accessed through a chat or instant messaging interface. In the example presented in FIG. 21 the AOL instant messaging (AIM) user “erochetg” goes to the GAD chat gateway (whose screen name is “tgsplat”). The GAD chat gateway tgsplat appears as an AIM user and the AIM user erochetg can chat with it. The GAD gateway makes the connection between the AIM user and the corresponding GAD user. As shown in the previous example, the AIM user erochet@aol.com is associated with the GAD user name “er2” as set up in FIG. 10. Therefore when AIM user “erochetg” chats with the GAD gateway, he actually chats with the GAD “er2”. The chat gateway is a convenient way to make a third-party instant messaging system correspond with the GAD system. In the case that the instant messaging system and the GAD system are controlled by a single entity, the CHAT gateway could be eliminated by identifying directly the GAD username with the instant messaging user name, thus eliminating need for a gateway.

Assuming the GAD user and the instant messaging user have been linked (either through a gateway or directly, the user can interact with the GAD within the instant messaging interface. For example, the user can immediately search for existing information but can also add new information as shown in FIG. 22. In FIG. 22, the user “erochetg” has typed “phone” into the instant messaging window and the GAD returned “my phone extension is 223 (according to er2-gad).” This is an example of retrieving information from a GAD through the instant messaging interface. In FIG. 22, the user “erochetg” has also typed “john's birthday is 3/3/2002” into the instant messaging window and the GAD returned “added” meaning that this fact has been added to the user GAD.

The user can then query the GAD as shown in FIG. 23. In FIG. 23, the user “erochetg” continues to chat by typing “john's birthday” and the GAD returns “john's birthday is 3/3/2002 (according to er2-gad)”.

With reference to FIGS. 24-27, GADs with question answering will now be described. As shown in FIG. 24 it is possible to ask questions directly such as “what is john's birthday” and have the GAD answer the question according to the user information stored in the GAD. In addition to user information, one may also add general information and allow a general question answering system to be used in addition. It is then also possible to ask generic questions as shown in FIG. 25 such as “what is the population of china”. As shown in FIGS. 24 and 25, the respective answers are given according to a general question-answering system in addition to the information found in the user GAD.

The same result becomes possible in a chat interface as shown in FIG. 26 that can also include asking generic questions as shown in FIG. 27. As before, the questions are answered. FIGS. 26 and 27 show that the user can request an explicit search result by initiating a query starting with the keyword “search” and followed by the search terms as in the example “search my phone” in FIG. 26.

The GADs disclosed herein may utilize the question answering system as disclosed in U.S. Published Application No. 2004/0117352 published Jun. 17, 2004 and entitled “System for Answering Natural Language Questions.” The contents of this published application are incorporated herein by reference.

It is recognized that modifications and variations of the invention disclosed herein will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art and it is intended that all such modifications and variations be included within the scope of the appended claims.