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Inf@Vis!

The digital magazine of InfoVis.net

KartOO
by Juan C. Dürsteler [message nº 97]

KartOO is a new meta search engine that shows graphically the results it gets. Its technology extends to products oriented towards information retrieval within the corporate world.

KartOO.jpg (77270 bytes)

KartOO graphic presentation. You can see the results of the search as balls of size proportional to its relevance. The words of the semantic links are highlighted by the ovals. The query was "infovis".
Click on the image to enlarge it. 

A new meta search engine, KartOO, was launched on April 25th, 2002. It’s based on a technology developed for 3 years by Laurent Baleydier and his team, from the company Kartoo.S.A. constituted in 2001 and successor of Alcyon Interactive Company

KartOO is programmed in Flash although you have an optional traditional HTML interface. As in any search engine you find a command line waiting for you typing the query you are interested in. Once you click on OK, KartOO launches the query to a set of search engines, gathers the results, compiles them and represents them in a series of interactive maps through a proprietary algorithm.

The graphic presentation shows the 10 (or the number you choose) first results as balls, its size being proportional to the relative relevance. When you hover on top of the ball, a short description returned by the link is shown. If you want to see more results, another map appears just by clicking on the appropriate link, as in any typical search engine.

What makes KartOO interesting is that it elaborates the so called semantic links between results. Those links are represented by sinuous lines that link the balls. Amidst said lines you find a word that is the one the algorithm considers that links both results semantically. By hovering on top of it you can highlight the related balls. When hovering over the ball you can see all its related semantic links highlighted. Curiously enough, there aren’t links among the successive maps you can ask for.

KartOO. Detail of the semantic links  between two results. The web site that produced the result is shown as a ball. The semantic link is represented by the word (bibliography) highlighted by the clear oval and the line (light blue) that joins both sites. Notice the + and - signs that allow you to add or eliminate the word to an eventual new search.

Each word has a plus (+) and a minus (–) sign. Clicking one or the other, KartOO restarts the meta search including or excluding the word in the query accordingly to the sign picked. 

KartOO. The controls allow you to:
  • Know how many results have been obtained. Each green bar represents a power of ten. One bar indicates between 0 and 10, two bars, between 10 and 100, three bars between 100 and 1000, and so on.

  • Zoom, increasing (+) or diminishing (-). You can also move the scene with the arrows. You can activate this feature in the "View" menu .

  • Get the next page of results clicking on the "map nb n" link, where  n is the results page number.

KartOO is a technology of visual representation of meta searches. As such, the meta search engine is only the showroom of a series of products addressed to companies interested in the information retrieval of its data bases, intranet, etc. The product range can be found at KartOO's website.

The idea behind KartOO is not a new one, although its algorithms and graphical representation are new. For example, map.net has a visualisation system that, as a showroom, allows you to search visually in the Open Directory Project. It also has products oriented to the corporative world that use its own technology.

Visual search has the enormous advantage of catching your gaze. You have all the stuff in front of your eyes and you can identify relevant results attending to stimulus like size, lines and colours.

Nevertheless, despite the good services offered by KartOO and Map.net, among others, I still find what I’m looking for earlier with Google, which leaves me somewhat upset.

Maybe the problem is not the chosen visual representation but that we continue doing the same thing (finding a relevance ordered list of results), only representing it visually. It reminds me of when we talk about “computerising” an inefficient process by doing the same process, just much quicker, by computer, instead of seizing the opportunity to adapt the process to the new system.

Perhaps visual representations will begin to predominate in information retrieval when they show things that we can not see in the ordered list. The semantic links of KartOO are an incipient step forward in this sense.

Links of this issue:

http://www.kartoo.com   KarTOO web site
http://www.kartoo.net/en/pgknow01.html  
http://www.map.net  
http://www.dmoz.org  
http://www.google.com  
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