Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Metafor: Translating Natural Language to Code

There is a post on Slashdot entitled "Metafor: Translating Natural Language to Code", referring to a Technology Research News article entitled "Tool turns English to code". The gist of the story is that researchers at MIT, including Hugo Liu, are working on a "language-to-code visualizer" that they call "Metafor". I haven't carefully read either the article or the actual research, but there is at least some utility to pursuing research in this direction.

Here's the Metafor project description from Hugo Liu's web page. There's a breief description, as well as links for papers on the topic, and even the draft for section on the topic for an upcoming book on the topic.

The only real problem I have with the overall concept is that people, including software developers and non-developers alike are particularly lousy and imprecise in their use of natural language. In order to finally achieve the goal of allowing users to fully command and control complex computational systems, we first need to "crack the nut" of how to get people to use natural language more effectively.

To me, the must intriguing avenue of pursuit is feedback tools which allow the computer to elaborate the meanings and ambiguities in any natural language utterance. I would call this "Did You Really Mean?" analysis. It would be quite helpful in all venues of human communication, even if the computer is not the intended target.

-- Jack Krupansky


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