Unofficially obsessed with Google.


Google Snatches Orion and Ori Allon

4/10/2006 10:35:00 AM
Although it happened weeks ago, we’re finding out that Google acquired search tool Orion and its PhD creator Ori Allon from University of New South Wales. In a quick summary, Orion is a complimentary tool for search engines that increases relevancy and breadth of results (see Ori Allon's September 9, 2005 press release).

No working demo is available, but Orion works to improve search relevancy by making sure results pages use keywords appropriately. Results pages for which the keyword is used relevantly get returned, everything else gets weeded out. The search results pages are then beefed up with highly relevant contextual snippets. Orion also displays results related to the keyword query so that one search can yield results for other searches of equivalent purpose. For example:

"Take a search such as the American Revolution as an example of how the system works. OrionTM would bring up results with extracts containing this phrase. But it would also give results for American History, George Washington, American Revolutionary War, Declaration of Independence, Boston Tea Party and more. You obtain much more valuable information from every search."


I find this an interesting but unconvincing example as the range of key phrases returned is far too broad. But this is useful for commonly synonymous terms like “web design,” “website design,” “site design,” etc if that’s what we are being led to believe this search tool can do. Another example of Orion’s “intelligence” (source MachineDesign.com):

"For example, a key-word search on the engineering resin "nylon" using a current search engine results in a list of over 100 hits. Seven, of the top 10, however, point users to Web sites selling women's hosiery. In contrast, reports Allon, with Orion when "nylon" is entered the search engine returns results with extracts containing the word nylon along with the associated keywords with the relevant text extracts — adipic acid, du Pont de Nemours, Dr. Wallace Hume Carothers, carbon, atoms, synthetic fibers, Nylon 6,6, and many more."


Here I see that the Orion technology is attempting to make human decisions on its own. It is true that for certain sectors of users, nylon as a subject of science and materials would be the priority but for another sector of users those ladies stockings pages would be the primary interest. Stockings and science are both highly related to “nylon,” it’s just that they relate in a different way. If Orion makes this preference automatically, then it’s a biased technology. This bias, however, could certainly be used neutrally to provide a set of "grouped" search results that allow the user to make his own bias, selecting only results from the search results group he feels is most relevant.

Perhaps Orion, touted as “revolutionary,” does contain some mysterious juice that would greatly improve Google. On the other hand, Google’s quiet acquisition might be viewed more as a competitive maneuver to ensure that none of this potential juice goes to other search players (Yahoo, MSN, Ask, etc). The easiest way to keep competitors from getting nubile technology is to snap it up yourself. If Orion were as good as it claimed to be, then Google no doubt wanted to be the only search player with access to the technology and to the brain of its creator.

So there you have it. Another day, another Google buy! And, oh yeah, another hire.

7 Comments:

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