Saturday, September 26, 2009

Use Google Sets as a movie recommendation engine

If you are not already aware, Google Sets is a Google Labs tool which automatically creates a set of items from a few examples. For example, if you enter “Manchester United”, “Arsenal” and “Liverpool”, Google Sets will instantly recognize that those are names of football teams and produce a set of more football teams like “Chelsea”, “Everton”, “Aston Villa” etc. Google Sets is one of the original Google Labs application and it’s still a favorite one, though often overlooked.


Google Sets works with almost anything – names of cities, foods, cars, actors books, and even movies. If you enter some movie names on Google Sets it will give you back names of other movies. But that's not all. It can correctly identify the genre of the movies too, something like a movie recommendation engine.

I’m a thriller/suspense movie fan, so let’s start with a few of my favorites thriller movies. The Machinist, The Prestige, The Fight Club – I typed. This is what Google returned.


Casino Royale, Memento, Equilibrium, Deja vu, Children of Men, Pulp Fiction, Sin City are some of the names you can read off the list. Those are some seriously good thrillers. I tried horror movies next - The Exorcist, Night of the Living Dead, Shutter.


Psycho, Friday the 13th, The Amityville Horror, Evil Dead, Poltergeist, Scream … hell yes, those are some really good horror movies. As you can see, Google Sets is picking up the genre pretty well and it does have some good tastes too.

Similar results are seen with movies with other genres like:

War movies
My  input: Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List and The Great Escape
Google’s recommendation: The Guns of Navarone, The Longest Day, The Pianist, The Last Samurai, Platoon… and so on.


Romantic movies
My  input: When Harry met Sally, Chasing Amy, As good as it gets
Google’s recommendation: While you were sleeping, Sleepless in Seattle, You've got mail, Titanic, Pretty woman, Notting Hill.


It will be unfair to compare Google Sets with specialist movie recommendation engines like Jinni, Clerkdogs or my favorite Nanocrowd. Google Sets is just a basic “find similar stuff” kind of tool, and it might not always be spot on. But the fact is - it works.


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