Friday, May 24, 2013

Information extraction

Information extraction (IE) is the task of automatically extracting structured information from unstructured and/or semi-structured machine-readable documents. In most of the cases this activity concerns processing human language texts by means of natural language processing (NLP). Recent activities in multimedia document processing like automatic annotation and content extraction out of images/audio/video could be seen as information extraction.
Due to the difficulty of the problem, current approaches to IE focus on narrowly restricted domains. An example is the extraction from news wire reports of corporate mergers, such as denoted by the formal relation:
MergerBetween(company_1, company_2, date),
from an online news sentence such as:
"Yesterday, New York based Foo Inc. announced their acquisition of Bar Corp."
A broad goal of IE is to allow computation to be done on the previously unstructured data. A more specific goal is to allow logical reasoning to draw inferences based on the logical content of the input data. Structured data is semantically well-defined data from a chosen target domain, interpreted with respect to category and context.

World Wide Web applications

IE has been the focus of the MUC conferences. The proliferation of the Web, however, intensified the need for developing IE systems that help people to cope with the enormous amount of data that is available online. Systems that perform IE from online text should meet the requirements of low cost, flexibility in development and easy adaptation to new domains. MUC systems fail to meet those criteria. Moreover, linguistic analysis performed for unstructured text does not exploit the HTML/XML tags and layout format that are available in online text. As a result, less linguistically intensive approaches have been developed for IE on the Web using wrappers, which are sets of highly accurate rules that extract a particular page's content. Manually developing wrappers has proved to be a time-consuming task, requiring a high level of expertise. Machine learning techniques, either supervised or unsupervised, have been used to induce such rules automatically.
Wrappers typically handle highly structured collections of web pages, such as product catalogues and telephone directories. They fail, however, when the text type is less structured, which is also common on the Web. Recent effort on adaptive information extraction motivates the development of IE systems that can handle different types of text, from well-structured to almost free text -where common wrappers fail- including mixed types. Such systems can exploit shallow natural language knowledge and thus can be also applied to less structured text.


Three standard approaches are now widely accepted
Numerous other approaches exist for IE including hybrid approaches that combine some of the standard approaches previously listed.

Free or open source software and services

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