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SMS Gyan – mobile search engine with a difference

By on Sep 18, 2009 in Reviews, Tech Takes | 1 comment

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I came to know about this startup called SMS Gyan when one of its founders (or someone from their team) emailed me about it. At the outset I would like to point out that this blog post is not a ‘sponsored’ post. I found their concept interesting, so I’m blogging about it. These guys do have some considerable reputation behind them, since they were part of the Economic Times Power of Ideas initiative.

SMS Gyan logoThe concept of SMS Gyan is that while some high-end phones have good web browsers, every goddamn phone has SMS capability. What SMS Gyan tries to do is that it tries to be an ‘answer engine’ instead of a ‘search engine’. I would have brought up WolframAlpha if I was a TechCrunch author, but that I am not. SMS Gyan and Wolfram are different thing and they shouldn’t be confused. SMS Gyan works like this – there are a few specified categories in which you can SMS queries to them, and then it sends you answers related to that. The categories currently available are: encyclopedia, dictionary, acronym, live cricket scores, movie/book reviews, weather, alerts, stock market, gadget price, calorie meter. You can find out exact details on how to format your SMS query on their website, so I won’t bother repeating it. If your phone has a web browser, you can route your query via the SMS Gyan WAP site – but that kinda defeats the whole point of SMS Gyan. The service then sends back pint-sized bits of information on whatever topic you ask it about.

I believe any search engine – whatever kind it may be – should be judged on the basis of the results that it gives. I decided to run some random queries in various categories to test SMS Gyan. I present the results here, with my commentary with [ ] braces.

  1. Encyclopedia
    1. quiz – A quiz is a form of game or mind sport in which d players attempt 2 answer questions correctly. Quizzes are also brief assessments used in education similar fields 2 measure growth in knowledge abilities andor skills.
    2. Kevin Smith – Kevin Patrick Smith is an American screenwriter director as well as a comic book writer author actor. He is also d co founder with Scott Mosier of View Askew Productions owner of Jay Silent Bobs Secret Stash comic novelty store in Red Bank New Jersey. He also hosts a weekly podcast wi.More [I think the message is truncated and you can get more info by sending back a message]
    3. Oompa Loompas – This article uses bare URLs. pls help improve this article by turning bare URLs into proper citations containing all of d information on d referenced works title date publisher publication author so that d article remains verifiable in d future. [This was a big boo-boo. Obviously, it’s capturing details from the Wikipedia page on this topic, but it caught the wrong information.]
  2. Dictionary
    1. quiz – competition in d answering of questions, hoax, interrogate. [Note that this is different from the encyclopedia result. Good!]
    2. whatchamacallit – an object of unknown name. [Not a very common word. I’m impressed it got this one.]
    3. bill gates – Oops no results. [Just testing what happens if I gave a non-dictionary word.]
  3. Books
    1. White Tiger – Amzn Rating: 4.0/5 , Caught in the rooster coop , From The Darkness into the light , Incredible Journey Through A Changing India , Is White Tiger at best a Paper Tiger? , Debut novel about India a fantastically dark read [Crap results basically.]
  4. Movies
    1. Taking of Pelham 123 – Reviewbag says: Sorry, I don’t have reviews for this query–Powered by reviewbag.com
    2. Good Will Hunting Avg Rating: 4.1/5 , First and foremost, Good Will Hunting is a film riding young, exuberant energies , There’s nothing original in this picture, yet it’s intensely likable just the same , You’d never guess this just-off-center movie was directed by indie hero Gus Van Sant , With its sweet soul and sharp mind, it’s one of the most heartening films of the year , This beautifully realized tale is always engaging and often quite touching , Intimate, heartfelt and wickedly funny, it’s a movie whose impact lingers , Thanks to solid performances by Damon, Williams, and Driver, the story glides by on charm , Fairly bursts with the exuberance and youthful energy that must have attended its creation , It’s the individual moments, not the payoff, that make it so effective , Stuffed–indeed, overstuffed–with heart, soul, audacity, and blarney
  5. Acronyms
    1. TAANSTAFL – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch [Impressed that it got this.]
    2. CORBA – Common Object Request Broker Architecture (Object Management Group); Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association

I could go on more about results from other categories, but I hope you get the gist of what the service does. Overall, I must say I was impressed with its abstracts on most information snippets that I asked it for. SMS Gyan is not coming up with the answers itself, but merely channeling information from other places online to you. In a situation where you are stuck with no GPRS/EDGE connectivity, or you have a phone which doesn’t have a (good?) web browser, SMS Gyan holds much promise in getting you in the information that you need. They’re also working on some new offshoots such as live event promotion SMS management etc. Yes, there are some glitches in the service – but these are early days yet and I’m sure their team will work on removing these over time.

The concept is extremely simple, yet the fact that a majority of phones in India are not smartphones might mean that SMS Gyan has a product which can actually take off and be successful. Give it a try online (WAP site) or check out the SMS query format.



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