Talking about Controlled English: A language for human-machine interaction

Share this post:

For the last few years some of us on ETS have been doing client-funded research, and one of the things we’ve been investigating is whether there is a language that could be used to make it easier for normal people and machines to interact with each other. Not a programming language (we’ve got enough of those already!) but something aimed at capturing and sharing knowledge and information, but in a human-friendly way rather that in a technical format like XML, JSON or in a database. So we’ve been looking at Controlled Natural Languages and have developed our own, named “ITA Controlled English”, or CE for short, and have been experimenting with this and showing proof-of-concept demonstrations to help understand what is possible and what might be most useful. We’ve also published a bunch of papers, recorded a few videos and released an experimental version of our development environment via developerWorks.


As well of getting lots of interest from our clients and internal contacts we also entered and jointly won the IBM internal TechConnect competition in 2014 for the UK. Our entry titled “Improving human-machine collaboration through language” told some of the CE story and we were delighted to see it come in joint first place with another entry from the ETS team in the area of information virtualisation. This gave us quite a lot of internal publicity and recently I spoke to colleagues John McNamara and David Radley in a short IBM developer hangout session talking about our work in this area and where we see the potential.

We’re looking forward to more exciting developments with this research in 2015 and I’d like to thank my colleagues David Mott and John Ibbotson for their help with the Techconnect entry and with the Controlled English research in general.

More stories

Cloud Excellence Awards 2017 Winners

The Cloud Excellence Awards for 2017 were held on 20th September with a winning place given to one of the project ETS have been working on.  The evening event was held at a hotel in London and was well attended by many of the candidates.  There were a wide variety of submissions in the various categories […]

Continue reading

IBM & Ogilvy Hackathon 2017 (May, Sea Containers, London)

Background Ogilvy UK hosted a 2-day Hack event with the explicit purpose of solving a problem, big or small, focusing entirely on the individual citizen’s healthy living. Using the most comprehensive suite of machine learning and AI tools, Watson the technology specialists found solutions to help citizens engage in positive behaviour using data, insights, and […]

Continue reading

What Makes a Great Wimbledon Champion

IBM has been supporting Wimbledon’s pursuit of greatness for 27 years. In recent years, much of that contribution has come from the Hursley based Emerging Technology team. This year’s challenge? To find out what makes the greatest Wimbledon champion of all time. A team of statisticians, tennis analysts, coaches, journalists and developers assembled to start […]

Continue reading