Recently, my research group has been doing some work on Intent Tag Clouds or – in other words – Intent Annotations. The idea of Intent Annotations is not to focus on what a given resource is about, but what goals it refers to/ what goals it helps to achieve / what goals it aspires to.
Here’s an example from a small project a student of mine is working on right now, which shows a comparison of Intent vs. Traditional Tag Clouds generated from speeches given by US presidential candidates in 2008:
On the left, you can see an Intent Tag Cloud describing what goals are referenced in the political speeches given by the candidates, while on the right you can see a traditional tag cloud of the same text, based on word frequency and a simple stop word list. The difference lies mainly in the observation that intent tags reference future states (often in combination with a verb) focusing on aspirations, while traditional tags focus on reflecting content. In cooperation with A. Gordon from USC, we have developed an algorithm for intent annotation based on an existing social-psychological theoretical framework  that can produce intent annotations with useful results. However, our approach is a prototype, and some flaws can easily be identified from the intent tag clouds above.
Which brings me to a recent demonstration of Pattie Maes (MIT Media Lab) presenting some of their research on Ambient Intelligence (Now Fluid Interfaces) at TED 2009, particulary their research on portable “sixth sense” devices:
Here’s a link to the full video (it seems that you have to endure a sponsor message in order to watch). Make sure to have a look at min 01:40 – 02:00. Pattie’s group demos a vision of a device that can project relevant information on arbitrary objects in a person’s immediate surroundings. An example that was shown is what I would call a “Human Tag Cloud”: Projecting a tag cloud onto a person’s body while talking to him/her. The idea here is that the Tag Cloud provides some clues about the person’s interest or character during interaction.
While having a traditional tag cloud projected on a person’s t-shirt could definitely spark interesting conversations, such an approach is limited in terms of what it can say about a person (an example from the video would be the projection of the tag “Canon EOS 650” on the person’s T-shirt, it’s not quite clear what that would say about a person). Of course this is by no means a limitation of the 6th sense interface, but imagine how interesting it would be to have an idea about a persons goals, his aspirations and motivations, before entering into a conversation – Knowing that a person cares deeply about the environment or is enthusiastic about charity! Apart from privacy concerns that would certainly have to be dealt with, such technology could prove useful in the formation of real-world groups or the initiation of conversations.
A paper describing the technical details of our approach is currently under review, and we are working on a web interface to produce intent annotations from different textual resources, so stay tuned!
 Chulef, A. S., Read, S. J. and Walsh, D. A. (2001), A Hierarchical Taxonomy of Human Goals. In Motivation and Emotion, 25 (3), 191–232, 2001.