Intelligent Software Could Give Students a Real Push; EDUCATION an 'Intelligent"' Research Tool Used by Security Services, News Agencies and Bluechip Companies Is Being Tested on Pupils in Birmingham. Called Autology, It Could Radically Transform the Way Children Learn, Virtually Making Text Books a Thing of the Past. Education Correspondent Shahid Naqvi Reports

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Byline: Shahid Naqvi

Not so many decades ago, students doing research would have to rely on books.

Then internet search engines like Google opened the window to a world of online information - not always reliable - at the touch of a keyboard.

Today, the next big revolution in information gathering is practically doing away with the need for traditional research completely, by delivering relevant material straight to students as they write.

Called "push technology", it is described as the closest thing to having an intelligent personal research assistant at your disposal 24/7.

It is already used by MI5, the FBI, BBC, Reuters, Merrill Lynch, the Deutsche Bundesbank and IBM - and now it is being tested in the field of education on six schools in Birmingham.

David Black, head of a company that is pioneering the education-specific software called Autology said: "It is pattern recognition technology which is able to push relevant information to a user. There is no need to go and search for it. It can be pushed to you conceptually, matched to what you are writing about.

"It is like a student sitting in a library and as they are writing their essay somebody keeps coming up to them saying 'you are writing about this, have you seen this?'

"They are not having to go and get it. It's as near as you are going to get to artificial intelligence."

Autology is an educational off-shoot of a software system called Autonomy developed in the late 80s by an academic at Cambridge University. It works by reducing text, sound and video to mathematical equations, meaning it becomes easier to match information conceptually.

"When you do a search on Google you get a keyword match, it is not sensible," said Mr Black.

"Autology can match concepts to the syntactic relationship that exists between words.

"That means it can get at unstructured information that Google can't get at because it can only get at information that has been tagged, or underlined."

According to Mr Black, the vast majority of information on the internet is unstructured, meaning it is not tagged and won't appear in Google searches. …