BACKGROUND: A company in Purdue Research Park has created a new kind of search engine called 3D-Seek, thanks to a major advance in pattern recognition. The program lets users find hard-to-describe items -- hinges, bolts, conveyor belts, or motors, for example -- in an online catalog without ever needing to know the items -- names, part numbers or keywords. Instead, all a user needs to do is draw a simple freehand sketch : a doodle. The drawing can be done from any angle of the actual object. 3D-Seek will find the desired part in seconds via a related technology called i-prowler, which hunts for image files on a user's computer and merges them with either the online database or an internal company catalog
BENEFITS: There are differences in the ways various search engines work, but they all perform three basic tasks. They search the Internet -- or select pieces of the Internet -- based on important words. They keep an index of the words they find, and where they find them. They allow users to look for words or combinations of words found in that index. Instead of walking around from store to store carrying a bracket, for example, you can use 3D Seek to find a match online, print out a barcode for the exact part, and take it to any store that stocks it. An online test version is available at the moment, with a full-fledged product expected for launch in the fall.
ABOUT THE PROGRAM: The 3D-Seek software was built on top of technology created by the Purdue Research and Education Center for Information Systems in Engineering (PRECISE) at Purdue University, to compare computer-aided design files and other 3D images that are used throughout industry. Further collaboration led to a system that required only critical shape characteristics, not entire image files, which allowed faster search speeds and also protected proprietary information held by parts suppliers. The challenge was to match a rudimentary doodle to an actual 3D object in seconds.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.