VU gets grant to develop 'History Recorder'

The Faculty of Arts at Amsterdam's VU University has received a 2,8 million euro grant to develop a "history recorder," a computer programme designed to filter daily streams of news and store the "who, what, where, when, and why" of current events.

The programme is intended to use the same strategy as humans in collecting details of a story and integrating them with previously stored information. The project is entitled "NewsReader" and is a collaboration of the VU with two European research institutes in Trento and San Sebastian and two companies, LexisNexis and ScraperWiki.

Rather than storing a series of related events separately, the recorder will link together events into a single story-line. Like the human brain, the programme will thereby remove duplicate information and supplement incomplete information as it reads. Unlike humans tend to do, the recorder will not forget details, will be able to recall the complete story as it was told, will know who told what part of the story, and will also be able to identify which sources contradict one other.

This history recorder can be viewed as a new way of indexing and retrieving information to combat information overload. Current solutions compile long lists of potentially relevant news items, leaving the user with the onerous task of sorting through and vetting information.

Because of overwhelmingly abundant and sometimes conflicting information, it is often impossible to make truly well-informed decisions. The history recorder aims to present this information as a single and complete history.

Besides organising news as stories, the recorder will also have the capacity to withdraw specific information from individual stories in order to find patterns. Since it records all the original sources of information, the recorder can also provide insights into how the story was told, for example in different places or over time.

Source: VU University Amsterdam


Carly Blair


Carly Blair



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