January 24, 2013
Social networks have become the main source of information for many of us. We get news from Twitter and Facebook, learn about new places on Foursquare and Instagram, discover new music on Facebook via Spotify and Rdio integration. We receive information through news feeds which change so quickly that we instantly lose track of what has just caught our attention. We have built Wonder, an iPhone/iPod Touch app that helps you to find the information when you need it. Wonder collects your friends’ activity from Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare and Twitter – places they visited, music they listened to, news they read – indexes this information and makes it instantly accessible. Now you can ask questions about what your friends have been up to in order to get proven recommendations for the best coffee in your area or which tracks should be added to your playlist.
Wonder supports natural language (which, currently, is English) and voice input *, so you can easily formulate a question in just one phrase and ask it. For example:
- If you are looking for a proven sushi place in New York, you can just ask: what sushi restaurants do my friends go to in New York?
- When you are traveling and looking for coffee shops you can ask: coffee shops nearby.
- Going out on a Friday night, ask: where do my friends party?
- You know your friend John has a good taste for music, ask: what music does John listen to?
- Feel like listening to electronic music, ask: I wonder what electronic music are my friends listening to?
- Want to catch up on news, ask: news shared by my friends.
Answers contain all related information collected from your friends across social networks. For example, places are displayed as visual stacks of pictures and tips your friends attached to the places on Facebook, Instagram and Foursquare. By tapping on a stack you can unfold the pictures and swipe through them.
When you are in a crowded place and uncomfortable to speak to your phone, you can type - find a keyboard button under the activated microphone. Wonder provides personalized suggestions of your friends’ names, cities your friends visited, place categories, and music genres when you type a question.
Wonder is integrated with a number of web services (Last.fm, Foursquare’s venue database, iTunes), which allows you to get more information and consume what you’ve found without leaving the application. For example:
- Tap on a restaurant name to see the menu and call to book a table.
- Tap on the album title to read the artist’s bio or tap on the album cover to preview a song and buy it on iTunes.
- Tap on a news to read the full text.
To start using Wonder, you provide an access to your social networks accounts. In several minutes the first portion of data is collected and you can start asking questions. Over time your answers get richer as we will collect more data.
Wonder is implemented at Yandex Labs using Yandex’ technologies for natural language understanding and social data collector. The natural language understanding unit translates questions in English into structured database queries. The social data collector is built from scratch, it periodically fetches, cleans and stores social data into a database designed to run structured queries. Read more on the technology in the white paper.
Wonder is an experiment. Currently, it supports three domains (places, music and news) and limited types of questions. We are going to extend the app’s scope based on your feedback if you like the idea of our application. Download Wonder for free from the U.S. Apple App Store. We would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Speech recognition and text-to-speech provided by Nuance Communications, Inc.