What does the typical search engine do? It uses a metasearch engine, an information retrieval tool, to gather all sorts of information from web search engines to offer you its own results. A few researchers from the Indian Institute Of Information Technology and Management-Kerala (IIITM-K) aimed for a more specific result with the Vilokana search engine: it targets research articles alone - now with the threat of Corona looming, it can help answer all your expert questions on the pandemic.
Vilokana, which means 'finding out' in Sanskrit has helped a whole lot of people across the country access authentic, scientific works of research every time they have a COVID-linked query, in the month that it has been live online.
Here's how it works. “Let’s say you search for the term 'Corona', you will be presented with a ranking of documents based on this context,” explains Dr Alex P James, Professor of IIITM-K and co-developer. “Vilokana will find you those articles which match your query the most. Our search process is more like a document analysis where we have text-level analysis.” The search engine was developed in collaboration with Srijith Paanja, an MSc student and Akshay Maan, a post-doctoral researcher.
When you search for a keyword in Vilokana, you get a detailed analysis of each article. This includes dominant keywords, the overall sentiment of the article, whether it’s positive or not and it also gives a summary based on the keyword that you searched for. With the platform, you can upload a document as well. If you have a particular article that you want researched, you can upload it and the search engine automatically extracts text from the document and analyses it in the same way.
The research that led to the development of Vilokana long precedes the Coronavirus or the pandemic. The team has been collaborating with a company in Bengaluru since December 2019 to develop a text analysis platform when they decided to develop some semantic techniques of their own. It was at this time that COVID reared its head.
Vilokana was officially launched for public use in the last week of April. Dr Alex says, “We thought, since we had already developing something like this, why not present it to the public when they would need it the most. The research we are doing will take a long time to complete, but it this could help people understand and get through this difficult time. We did not want to wait for anything else.”
The developers are yet to completely voyage into the technical side of their brainchild. Dr Alex affirms, “The scientific work continues. There is a whole different side to the work will do going forward and it will be understood on a purely technical level. It will be published as a very specific algorithm. Vilokana has many other applications that could be useful to the industry itself but we’re not focusing on the commercial side right now, we have put this out there to support people during this crisis.”