Google Knowledge Graph: first impressions

May 19th, 2012

The Google’s Knowledge Graph showed up for me this morning — it’s been slowly rolling out since the announcement on Wednesday. It builds lots of research from human language technology (e.g., entity recognition and linking) and the semantic web (graphs of linked data). The slogan, “things not strings”, is brilliant and easily understood.

My first impression is that it’s fast, useful and a great accomplishment but leaves lots of room for improvement and expansion. That last bit is a good thing, at least for those of us in the R&D community. Here are some comments based on some initial experimentation.

GKG only works on searches that are simple entity mentions like people, places, organizations. It doesn’t do products (Toyota Camray), events (World War II), or diseases (diabetes) but does recognize that ‘Mercury’ could be a planet or an element.

It’s a bit aggressive about linking: when searching for “John Smith” it zeros in on the 17th century English explorer. Poor Professor Michael Jordan never get a chance, and providing context by adding Berkeley just suppresses the GKG sidebar. “Mitt” goes right to you know who. “George Bush” does lead to a disambiguation sidebar, though. Given that GKG doesn’t seem to allow for context information, the only disambiguating evidence it has is popularity (i.e., pagerank).

Speaking of context, the GKG results seem not to draw on user-specific information, like my location or past search history. When I search for “Columbia” from my location here in Maryland, it suggests “Columbia University” and “Columbia, South Carolina” and not “Columbia, Maryland” which is just five miles away from me.

Places include not just GPEs (geo-political entities) but also locations (Mars, Patapsco river) and facilities (MOMA, empire state building). To the GKG, the White House is just a place.

Organizations seem like a weak spot. It recognizes schools (UCLA) but company mentions seem not to be directly handled, not even for “Google”. A search for “NBA” suggests three “people associated with NBA” and “National Basketball Association” is not recognized. Forget finding out about the Cult of the Dead Cow.

Mike Bergman has some insights based on his exploration of the GKG in Deconstructing the Google Knowledge Graph

The use of structured and semi-structure knowledge in search is an exciting area. I expect we will see much more of this showing up in search engines, including Bing.