OWL 2, a new Internet language developed by an international team led by computer scientists from the University of Manchester and Oxford University, is designed to enable computers to understand and interpret the contents of its pages. "The World Wide Web as we see it today is rather like a collection of linked documents," says Oxford professor Ian Horrocks, who helped develop the language. "Whilst humans are very good at analyzing the data contained in these pages, languages such as HTML do not help computers to 'bridge the meaning gap,' and understand that, for instance, 'paracetamol,' 'acetaminophen,' and 'para-acetylaminophen' are all names for the same thing."
One of the initial applications for OWL 2 is helping computers understand and analyze special medical terms. For example, the NCI Cancer Thesaurus has more than 50,000 medical terms, and ensuring that these terms are described, updated, and linked correctly has been a huge task for humans. However, OWL 2 can allow definitions to be written in such a way that computer programs can automatically update terms and identify errors. "The first stage was writing the NCI Thesaurus in the original version of the language, OWL, but now OWL 2 enables computer programs to interpret these terms in a much more human-like way," says Manchester's Bijan Parsia.
From University of Manchester
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