(PhysOrg.com) -- Microsoft Research is doing research on software that could bring you your own personal data mining center with a touch of Proust for returns. In a recent video, Microsoft scientist Eric Horvitz demonstrated the Lifebrowser, which is prototype software that helps put your digital life in meaningful shape. The software uses machine learning to help a user place life events, which may span months or years, to be expanded or contracted selectively, in better context.
Lifebrowser's interactive timeline looks like a less polished version of Facebook's recently introduced Timeline feature. However, Horvitz's design predates Facebook's and doesn't rely on a user to manually curate it. Photos, e-mails, and other documents and data points appear in chronological order, but Lifebrowser's timeline only shows those judged to be associated with "landmark" events by artificial intelligence algorithms. A user can slide a "volume control" to change how significant data has to be if it is to appear on the timeline. A search feature can pull up landmark events on a certain topic.
Machine learning is being applied in new ways to understand people and
to assist them with daily work and activities. Presented at Microsoft
TechForum 2012, Lifebrowser leverages machine learning and reasoning to
help people to navigate through large personal stores of their own
information, appointments, photos, and activities, including their
history with searching and browsing on the Web over days, months, and
years. The prototype learns about and infers "memory landmarks" --
events and activities that people would find important and memorable.
The system builds a timeline around inferred landmarks, and allows users
to zoom in on details of the timeline around inferred landmarks with a
"volume control." The system also enables users to perform search and
retrieval of content in the context of the landmarks.