Wednesday, January 17, 2007

COMPASS as a multimodal tourist guide

Many contextual services (and this means mobile as well) seem to be the result of research projects. One example is COMPASS 2008 aiming to support the non-Chinese speaking tourists that come to see the Olympic Games in Beijing. Core ideas seem to be profile-based recommendations and on-the-fly translation on a mobile device. According to Professor Wolfgang Wahlster from the German Research Center on Artificial Intelligence (from one of his presentations, a core requirement is that

human users should not be forced to adopt to the language of technology,
but the technology should adopt the language of their human users.

Sounds ok to me. But do we really need machine translation for that? If I assume that, as a tourist, I need a couple of typical phrases in order to get around, I might as well buy a phrase book and get around well.

Other question is whether these prototypes are really easy to use for anyone. For instance, how much effort is involved in creating personal profiles? Another question would be who is taking care of managing these multilingual ontologies? And what is the business model behind this? How about latency time (between a user query and a response)? Was there a field test conducted with average users under real-world conditions? How about end user acceptance?

These are just a couple of straightforward questions that need to be asked when considering a real-world use. Can all these wonderful ideas stand the test of reality?

If this sounds like me being skeptical about artificial intelligence, you may be right ...

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