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From the makers of Siri comes Trap.it, a new take on the search engine

trapitSiri, the breakout technology made famous via the iPhone 4S, has inspired everything from talk of the next step in artificial intelligence to an entirely new Internet meme. But Apple’s been cagey on introducing the feature to its other devices, and at the moment it remains something of an exclusive application.

If you have Siri-envy, there is a solution beyond caving and buying the expensive smartphone. A new take on the search engine called Trap.it uses the same AI technology that Siri does courtesy of the CALO project (which was funded by DARPA), and has launched its public beta for anyone and everyone to try out.

Trap.it is like a hybrid of Pandora and Qwiki (the “information experience” site that boasted former Facebook founder Eduardo Saverin as an investor) that feels a lot like the next step in search. While Google reigns supreme over this market, consumers’ shifting priorities are starting to make it feel just the tiniest bit antiquated.

likeUsing your Facebook or Twitter account, Trap.it curates the Web for you, offering up more personal takes on everything the Internet has to offer. It’s true that the typical search engine experience is more about the collective than it is you: It takes into account current news stories or information that the Web community has deemed quality via their clicks. But Trap.it doesn’t really care about the community—it’s more interested in the individual.

Via the “discover” bar, you “trap” information that comes up in visual-heavy icons with short text summaries. Hovering over these images lets you vote up or down if this is what you were looking for, share the information, or bookmark it for later. Your feedback on these “traps” is how the search engine learns and gets smarter, so eventually you’re receiving more and more spot-on results. We advise you to take a look at the privacy policy before you use it–although if you’re a Pinterest user, you shouldn’t take any issue with these terms.

It’s yet another signal we’re moving from search to discovery. We talked about this recently and how it applies to e-commerce, but this time Trap.it is striking at the heart of the matter and challenging traditional search at its most basic. A recent study into search revealed how products should gear products: 

“Future investigation for improving how users gather Web information should take into account the following aspects:

  • Visual characteristics of search result presentations for information gathering.
  • Re-finding tools that bookmark complete and partial search sessions with user annotations.
  • Integrated information management features that support information gathering tasks.” 

Sounds a lot like what Trap.it is doing. When we were looking for something, we used to go to Google and look for it by keywords—but we had to know what it was we were looking for. Now it’s like that process is in reverse. First we know we want something, and a phrase or anecdote is what leads us to the end result via a discovery process that helps us pinpoint what exactly it is we were looking for in the first place. 

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