The University of Chicago News Office
August 19, 1996 Press Contact: Steve Koppes
(773) 702-8366

University of Chicago provides on-line “cyberspace concierge” for Democratic National Convention August 26-29

The University of Chicago’s Intelligent Information Laboratory (InfoLab) has created a “cyberspace concierge” that will provide Democratic National Convention delegates with a unique Web-based restaurant guide and answers to thousands of frequently-asked questions about Chicago.

The on-line concierge system, called the “Chicago Information Exchange,” takes advantage of the University’s cutting edge research in artificial intelligence to form a bridge between people and vast data bases of information. Information exchange architect Kristian Hammond, Associate Professor of Computer Science and InfoLab’s director, said, “Our goal is to gather as much information as possible about everything in Chicago, and make it as easy as possible for people to find.” The restaurant guide and on-line information center will help make the Democratic National Convention the most high-tech political convention ever.

"Entrée Chicago": How do you figure out where to eat in Chicago if you’ve never been here before? Instead of paging through printed restaurant guides, you can peruse InfoLab’s “Entrée Chicago,” an intelligent, Web-based restaurant advisor that contains a searchable data base of over 700 Chicago eateries.

Want a moderately priced restaurant not too far from the convention center? Access Entrée via the World Wide Web–delegates at the convention can use the touch screens on the convention floor–and enter your criteria. Click, and presto: Entrée recommends Frontera Grill, Café Spiaggia and Lawry’s Prime Rib, and provides a description of each restaurant, including price, cuisine, location and phone number. Entrée is also connected to a locator map, provided by Vicinity Corporation, that can tell you exactly how to get to the restaurant of your choice.

Say you just arrived from Atlanta, where your favorite restaurant is “Indigo.” Entrée can easily help you find a similar restaurant in Chicago. Entrée knows restaurants across the country, from San Francisco to New York, and knows how they compare to Chicago’s gustatorial offerings.

Not satisfied with Entrée’s initial recommendation? Tweak your preferences by selecting among a number of options, including “less expensive," “nicer,” “quieter,” or “different cuisine.”

"Q & A": You’re an out-of-town convention delegate or journalist and want to know the height of the Sears Tower, or what to do with the kids. Or, why is Chicago really called the Windy City?

All you have to do is type your question into the Web-based “Q & A” and the computer churns through its data base to find the answers to your questions. Answers to thousands of frequently asked questions about Chicago have been drawn from Chicago Internet users and news groups.

During the convention, if the answer isn’t already in the data base, the question is routed to a team of researchers from the Special Libraries Association who will have the answer within minutes. It’s then cached in the data base and can be accessed by all users.

The University of Chicago formed the Intelligent Information Laboratory as a response to the gap between human information needs and the ability of computers to meet them. With an eye toward solving problems that are real rather than academic, InfoLab is dedicated to the discovery of technology that will link people and the machines that serve them, and to the transfer of these ideas into working systems. Other current projects include Pick-A-Flick, an on-line movie guide; Web Seer, which retrieves images and pictures from the World Wide Web; and ECHO, an experimental Web search engine which simplifies broad, complicated searches.

The University of Chicago, along with AT&T and Ameritech, is an information service provider for the convention.
Last modified at 03:50 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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