Predictive artificial intelligence (AI) content discovery engine Futureful has just re-launched and rebranded as Random, offering some improvements to the user experience. The Finnish startup approaches web browsing from a novel angle, based on user attitudes but making less cognitive-based suggestions with a random, unexpected element.
The era of primary Internet searching, based on blocks of key wordswhich encourage users to go further and deeper through layers of suggestion, is over, argues Skype co-founder Janus Friis. Friis was one of the backers of Helsinki-based startup Futureful, whose aim was to get away from the beaten path and provide a new web browsing experience that allows users to search out on the frontiers of their conscious fields of interest. On 4 April the predictive AI content discovery engine launched a new interface under a new name. The iOS application, now rebranded as Random, has taken its serendipitous browsing idea to the next stage, emphasizing the random angle. The thinking behind this approach is to counter the problem of the ‘filter bubble’ – the situation whereby our social networks and socially-curated news feeds are increasingly constricting and focused on the same themes so that we are simply not allowed to discover new things outside our consciousness that we do not yet know about. The Random team is therefore looking to help us open our minds when we search the Internet, bringing greater novelty and serendipity to the process.
Serendipity…based on user consumption behavior
The Random Internet content discovery portal is designed to help the user find the unexpected, the idea being to combine relevance with an element of surprise. It is an anonymous service and does not require any identification via the social networks. It will suggest websites you might like to try but will never make the same suggestion twice, always recommending a new range of key words from which the user can choose his/her next adventure. Random is seeking to mimic how people browse on the Internet when they let their minds wander, and will guide users towards content likely to be of interest by analyzing their online content consumption behavior over time. In fact the name Random is a little confusing as the process of coming up with content that might interest you is far from being random, though some random suggestions will be in the mix. The major difference between Random and its previous incarnation Futureful is the enhanced interface, which is designed to be more intuitive and entertaining. The former browsing bubbles have been replaced by a dynamic mosaic of potential reading content. You just tap on a ‘tile’ and it will enlarge for you to see an article from one of the many information sources.
New generation of Internet browsing and operating systems
Random, which still has a small user base, is not focusing on monetizing the service just yet. Random/Futureful co-founder Jarno Koponen claims that the startup is concentrating entirely at this stage on making enhanced web exploration using AI accessible to everyone. He underlines that: “Our investors believe in our big vision. We want to create the next-generation interface to information/content around us. And the UX [user experience] and AI needed for that will be powering all tomorrow’s digital devices, being the seed for the operating systems of the future.” In a way, the Random information interface, which is adaptive, predictive, and works by association, is intended to become an extension of our own minds, replicating a person’s mind-map of the world by capturing how things are connected for him/her. As Koponen puts it: “With our current UX we’re able to map things surfacing from your unconscious, your irrational self if you will.” Basically the new Random design looks rather like California-based Flipboard, maybe intentionally so in order to encourage users to think of Random more as a dynamic magazine than a discovery algorithm. At the moment Random is only available in an iOS version, but an Android version is scheduled to appear further down the road, says the company.