Amsterdam, November 13, 2006

Amsterdam Researchers Win International Semantic Web Challenge

Project leader Guus
Schreiber demonstrating the application to the inventor of the Web,
Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Project leader Guus Schreiber (right) demonstrating the winning application to the inventor of the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee (left)

The MultimediaN E-culture Project has won the first prize at the Semantic Web Challenge at the 5th International Semantic Web Conference held in Athens, Georgia, USA. This international competition aims to advance our understanding of how explicit, machine processable descriptions of data can be exploited on the Web. To qualify, applications should integrate, combine, and deduce information from heterogeneous and distributed sources in an open environment to assist users in specific tasks, potentially unforeseen by the original authors of the underlying Web content.

The 2006 challenge attracted 18 submissions from all over the world. The winning application this year was built by a team of Amsterdam researchers from CWI, UvA and VU, in close cooperation with Dutch cultural heritage organizations DEN and ICN. The application shows how online collections from various musea can be better explored over the Web. Unlike Google, the system organizes responses to queries in a for users meaningful way. For example, a query for "Picasso" retrieves several separate groups of images, e.g. of objects made of Picasso marble, of paintings by Picasso and of paintings by related artists such as other cubist painters. When searching for "Paris", the system provides the user with search options such as "paintings that depict Paris" and "objects made in Paris". Internally, the systems uses various sources of background information, that have been converted to RDF, the Web standard for machine processable data. This background information allows the system to retrieve paintings depicting Montmartre when searching for images of Paris. The system is completely based on open web standards and can be accessed with a regular web browser.

The prize was handed out to the E-Culture team members Guus Schreiber and Jacco van Ossenbruggen during the closing ceremony of the conference, which was attended by 550 people from the US, Europe and Asia. Subsequently, they gave a live demo in which they showed how sample searches for Picasso and for an image depicting Paris are handled by the E-Culture system. The system had also been demonstrated earlier in the week at the special Challenge session on 7 November.

The E-culture project is part of the larger MultimediaN project, funded through the BSIK program of the Dutch Government. The winning application is available online at The people involved in building the application were (in alphabetical order) Alia Amin, Mark van Assem, Victor de Boer, Lynda Hardman, Michiel Hildebrand, Laura Hollink, Zhisheng Huang, Janneke van Kersen, Marco de Niet, Borys Omelayenko, Jacco van Ossenbruggen, Guus Schreiber, Ronny Siebes, Jos Taekema, Jan Wielemaker and Bob Wielinga.