Penny Crossland Need an abstract? There's an app for that.
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Sunday, 22nd January 2012 Sign in to MyJinfo or create an account be able to star items Printable version Subscribe via RSS to get updates as soon as Blog items are added

By Penny Crossland


As we all know, information overload is the bane of our lives, so we should welcome any tool that helps us understand the salient points of a text and save time. Well, it looks like a London schoolboy may have come up with just that.

While most teenagers of my acquaintance were starting and ending research for their homework assignments with Wikipedia, Nick D’Aloisio was searching wider afield on the web and was frustrated by the results he was getting. How do you know if search results are relevant to your enquiry?  Obviously not your average 16 year old, D’Aloisio taught himself artificial intelligence programming and came up with an app called Summly. 

Launched in December last year, Summly uses advanced algorithms to summarise web content into bullet points and sharable keyword listings and has a patent pending. The newly formed company behind the idea has received backing from Horizon Ventures, the company involved in Spotify, Facebook and Siri, and owned by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka Sing, as reported by Forbes magazine here.

To date, the app has been downloaded 100,000 times and its young  founder has received incredible news coverage. Hailed as a "boy genius", on a par with Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin by technology blogger Om Malik, D’Aloisio seems to be quite sanguine about his new-found fame, despite the fact that several companies have been enquiring about licensing his technology.

Is Summly any good? It has received mixed reviews. MacWorld found the summaries frequently irrelevant or uninformative, while a review in Wired Magazine commented that summaries sometimes contained dates or numbers as bullet points. At the moment, Summly seems to be best when used to summarise well-structured texts of more than 500 words in length.

However, despite inconsistencies, most reviewers agree that the idea behind the app is brilliant. While there are clearly bugs that still need ironing out, Summly is definitely an app to watch and could be of great use to researchers. Apparently an Android and web version of the app will be launched shortly. VIP will be monitoring Summly and its founder’s progress.

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