March 30, 2015 | Written by: Anna Thomas and Dave Braines
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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.