Game-changers: 10 potentially huge technologies

The iPhone caused a tectonic shift in the tech landscape -- what else out there will change our lives?

The benefits are the same as with server virtualization: Network utilization would be much higher, because the application would determine the network speed and other specs. Service levels would be higher, and networks would be more scalable -- expanded to meet higher demands and scaling back during periods of low usage.

Markus Hoffman, a Alcatel Lucent lab director, is developing algorithms that would make network virtualization possible. "The goal of our work is to create a solution that enables more efficient utilization of computing resources," Hoffmann says. "Our work extends grid and cloud computing models to support not only transaction-oriented computing needs, but also interactive, session-oriented, interpersonal services."

4. Fuzzy searches

As long as you know the right search term, it's easy to find hundreds or even thousands of links on almost any given topic. However, search engines are not as powerful when it comes to so-called fuzzy searches -- finding information when you only have a vague concept of what you want. For example, you might know that there was an important English poet in the 1950s, but you can't remember his name or what he wrote. Yahoo Correlator allows you to type in vague terms such as "English poet 1950s" and correlate information. You can click on a tab for to find data such as names, places and events, and eventually hone it down and find out that there was a poet named Lou Barker.

Google Suggest is another example -- it tries to guess your query as you type.

The game-changer here is that it will be easier to find information than before. Fuzzy searches could even replace more-common search syntax, providing more accurate results faster. Natural-language searches will help bring search querying out of the realm of computing and into the real world: searches using your voice or touch interfaces, from the car or your kitchen, without ever typing.

"People have become accustomed to searching the Web for 'pages' and almost gave up searching for 'information,'" says Hugo Zaragoza, a Yahoo researcher. "As an alternative, people talk about building intelligent engines for understanding natural language and doing deep inference. Correlator shows that there is a middle ground: powerful search technology that can be used to exploit simple semantics to provide new ways of searching."

Part of the trick, Zaragoza says, is in the design of the right user interfaces, ones that allow users to specify their intent in a natural, seamless way. "Another important ingredient is to build algorithms that are resistant to errors, because automatic taggers make many mistakes," he says.

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John Brandon

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