Recently a friend (a good friend) has been fascinated by the SMS Text-based Bongo service. The idea is that you text your name, age and your town/city, and it will shortly return a text message that she says is freakishly accurate. And from all accounts it seems so.
The concept certainly pricked my interest for a lot of reasons. After all, how can a system return meaningful information based on so little context? Yes I am aware that in Artificial intelligence, EXPERT systems have been designed to interrogate knowledge bases using a natural language interface and return useful knowledge, however, they all work within limited purpose-build data/knowledge repositories.
What Bongo seems to be doing is more generalized and I would think probably using a human element to decipher the question posed (the very difficult part) and then use a gamut of search engines to piece together a response.
So it’s an interesting service from a number of perspectives; Information systems, Information theory, the impact of the advent of social networking, the rise of personal information in 3rd party repositories, and so and so forth.
Oh, and how does Bongo work? Well most of the answer is actually provided by Bongo themselves. You just need to read their published service policy carefully. It pretty much gives you all the clues. Go to http://199bongo.com/our-policy