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Microsoft labs tests a Wikipedia of average Joes

The company's researchers have launched EntityCube, an automated search tool that aims to pull together biographical information on even the not so famous.

The EntityCube listing for Microsoft Research chief Rick Rashid. CNET

Think of Microsoft's latest labs effort as the software maker's attempt to give everyone their own Wikipedia entry.

Dubbed EntityCube and now live to try out, the research project pulls together biographical information on anyone found on the Web.

Similar in some ways to other people-search projects that have been around for some time, EntityCube tries to cull the Web to build a dossier on whomever you can think of. Among the interesting features is the social graph that EntityCube builds, as well as its effort to automatically sort out information about different people with the same name. Particularly of note is the "Quanxi map" it can generate, although this feature seems to run particularly slow.

Although Web users can find information on just about anyone using search engines, they typically have to do so manually by going to many different sites. The goal of EntityCube, Microsoft researchers say, is to pull together all of that information.

"Even if a search engine could find all the relevant Web pages about an entity, the user would need to sift through all the pages to get a complete view of the entity," Microsoft said on a page describing the project. "EntityCube is an entity search and summarization system that efficiently generates summaries of Web entities from billions of crawled Web pages."

Although Microsoft's site makes reference to enitites, not people, the public EntityCube site at this point seems focused mainly on people. The EntityCube site went public late last week.

The project is coming out of Microsoft's research arm, but it would seem to be highly relevant to where the company's Bing efforts are headed. Last week, Microsoft announced an effort called "entity cards," in which Bing tries to put automatically generated summary information at the top of certain search queries, including notable people.

Something like EntityCube could conceivably allow Microsoft to expand that beyond the types of well-known people, such as musicians, for whom it currently offers summaries.

Even in cases where people do have a Wikipedia listing, they may only have a small entry, known as a stub. Such is actually the case with Microsoft Research chief Rick Rashid, whose considerably more detailed EntityCube page is show above.

Microsoft gave an early look at EntityCube at this year's TechFest internal science fair back in February.