Bing Update Asks Smarter Questions for Better Answers

Microsoft's search engine now features new autocomplete capabilities that help users pose questions they perhaps didn't know to ask.

Microsoft Bing search

Despite scouring practically every corner of the web, search engines can still prove maddeningly reluctant to provide a desired piece of information. Part of the problem is that users often don't know how to craft search queries that help them home in on the facts, figures and other data they seek.

Microsoft recently upgraded Bing Academic Suggestions using new technologies from the company's Technology and Research team and the Bing semantic graph. Academic Suggestions is an intelligent autocomplete feature that helps students and researchers find academic papers on a variety of topics from a host of authors and generates results similar to Google's "Scholarly articles" feature.

The new integrations "allow the user to construct highly structured queries exposing Bing's deep knowledge of specific topic areas," explained the company in a blog post. "The graph relationships are explored in real time and the most relevant suggestions are generated for the user, even if Bing has never seen the query before."

Microsoft also ported the capability to its movie search capabilities. Users can now string together questions based on the actors, directors and genre of a film, including the year it was released.

In both Academic Suggestions and movie search, Microsoft claims its "lightning-fast runtime component" analyzes a user's intent, matching it with Bing's massive object graph to unearth relationships data on the fly, generating real-time suggestions as users type their natural-language queries. Another benefit of the system is that it avoids "dead-end queries" caused by misspellings and grammatical errors, added the company.

Microsoft is also making it easier for Bing users to get where they're going.

The company announced a batch of improvements, including a high-contrast mode that enhances visibility for users with visual impairments. To help refine the quality of animated elements, like weather patterns, Microsoft created a new AnimatedTileLayer class for developers that smooths out motion graphics that are overlaid with Bing's mapping data.

The company also addressed an issue that could cause confusion when Bing Maps are used in business intelligence applications.

"In Bing Maps, toll roads are green, a common color used for indicating positive information in business intelligence apps," blogged the Microsoft Bings Maps group. "Now if you were to color-code sections of roads based on some metric, and green is used as one of the colors, a toll road may look like part of the data set. With this in mind, we decided to add three additional map styles [canvasDark, canvasLight and grayscale] that are better suited for business intelligence applications."

Finally, in time for football season, Microsoft announced it has revved up its Bing Predicts machine-learning engine, providing fans with weekly game-by-game predictions. A search for an NFL game or team, on both the home page or Bing mobile app, will display a blue flag next to the projected winner along with its percent chance of victory. Also available are fantasy football predictions and power rankings that forecast which teams will win their respective divisions as the season unwinds.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...