"To be sure, Wikipedia's Boko Haram entry is clearer. But the BBN system captures everything that appears on news sites—not just on topics people chose to write Wikipedia pages about—and constantly and automatically adds information, says Sean Colbath, a senior scientist at BBN Technologies who helped develop the technology. "I could go and read 200 articles to learn about Bashar Al-Assad (the Syrian dictator). But I'd like to have a machine tell me about it," says Colbath. (The system, by the way, picks up the fact that the brutal Al-Assad is also a licensed ophthalmologist.)
"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."
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Machine reading effort builds dossiers on people and organizations from translated news sources.