Thanks to its Facebook partnership, Microsoft has been strongly positioned to use social media to enhance its Bing search engine, incorporating the preferences of a person’s friends into the search results that person sees. But this would take it to a whole new level.
A newly surfaced Microsoft patent application describes a “user-following engine” that would analyze a user’s posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to deduce mood, interests, and possibly even the person’s education level and comprehension of specific topics.
Then the system would automatically adjust the search experience and results to better match those characteristics.
In the case of the person’s mood, for example, the background of the search interface could be changed to a different color. Or if the person has been posting to Facebook about an upcoming trip, the search engine can use that to make the search engine
And then there’s the part about the person’s smarts. Here’s an excerpt describing how that would work.
In addition to skewing the search results to the user’s inferred interests, the user-following engine may further tailor the search results to a user’s comprehension level. For example, an intelligent processing module may be directed to discerning the sophistication and education level of the posts of a user. Based on that inference, the customization engine may vary the sophistication level of the customized search result. The user-following engine is able to make determinations about comprehension level several ways, including from a user’s posts and from a user’s stored profile.
In one example, the user-following engine may discern whether a user is a younger student or an adult professional. In such an example, the user-following engine may tailor the results so that the professional receives results reflecting a higher comprehension level than the results for the student. Any of a wide variety of differentiations may be made. In a further example, the user-following engine may discern a particular specialty of the user, e.g., the user is a marine biologist or an avid cyclist. In such embodiments, a query from a user related to his or her particular area of specialty may return a more sophisticated set of results than the same query from a user not in that area of specialty.
If it sounds a little creepy, rest assured that the system would require the consent of the user. (Right, Microsoft?)
Also, as with most of these patent applications, there’s no indication that the company actually plans to roll this out as part of a product. But it provides a glimpse into the mindset of the company’s researchers, engineers and executives.
The application was filed in October 2010 but was made public by the patent office just this week. One of the inventors is James E. Allard, better known as J Allard, the well-regarded Microsoft executive (known for his role in Xbox and Zune) who left the company that same year.