It starts by detecting an “entity”—a name or an organization, such as Boko Haram, accounting for a variety of spellings. Then it identifies other entities (events and people) that are connected to it, along with statements made by and about the subject.
“It’s automatically extracting relationships between entities,” Colbath says. “Here the machine has learned, by being given examples, how to put these relationships together and fill in those slots for you.”
The Boko Haram page goes on to list associated organizations and statements by and about the group. Clicking on any of them takes you back to original news sources, many of them translations of articles originally published in Arabic by sites such as Al Sharq in Qatar and Al Balad in Lebanon.
The BBN project is the fruit of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s latest effort to build machines that read as humans do, a decades-old problem that has been the focus of increasing research in recent years.
Under DARPA’s research program, prototypes have been built by SRI International and IBM as well as Raytheon BBN.