Statistical Navigator from The Idea Works Inc., Columbia, Mo., was designed not to perform analyses but to work as a supplement to existing statistical packages. It uses a type of artificial intelligence called expert systems to determine, from users' input, which statistical analyses are most appropriate for their data. (Statistica from StatSoft, Tulsa, Okla., uses similar technology in its module "Statistical Advisor.)
"Expert systems are so named, explains Edward Brent, president of The Idea Works, "because they are designed to help a user with a specific, complex task in much the same way an expert consultant would work, if one were available.
Actually, Brent prefers the term "decision support system over "expert systems to describe Statistical Navigator. The latter phrase might convey the wrong impression, he fears--that users answer a few questions, then blindly accept answers that the program spits out.
"In each case, Statistical Navigator explains what each analysis...