Stephen Wolfram is building something new (see the shine in his eyes & the proud smile)– and it is really impressive and significant. In fact it may be as important for the Web (and the world) as Google, but for a different purpose. It’s not a “Google killer” — it does something different. It’s an “answer engine” rather than a search engine.
A revolutionary new software that will understand questions and give specific, tailored answers in a way that has never been seen is promising to shake up the internet.
Wolfram Alpha actually computes the answers (unlike Google, which simply returns documents that might contain the answers) to a wide range of questions — like questions that have factual answers such as “What is the location of Timbuktu?” or “How many protons are in a hydrogen atom?,” “What was the average rainfall in Boston last year?,” “What is the 307th digit of Pi?,” or “what would 80/20 vision look like?”.
It also has a natural language interface for asking it questions. This interface allows you to ask questions in plain language, or even in various forms of abbreviated notation, and then provides detailed answers.
Experts say that the new system, Wolfram Alpha, to be launched later this month, could put giants like Google in the shade, reports the Independent.
Wolfram Alpha, showcased at Harvard University in the US last week, takes the first step towards what many consider to be the internet’s Holy Grail — a global store of information that understands and responds to ordinary language in the same way a person does.
Computer experts believe the new search engine will be an evolutionary leap in the development of the internet. Nova Spivack, an internet and computer expert, said that Wolfram Alpha could prove just as important as Google. “It is really impressive and significant,” the British daily quoted Spivack as saying. “In fact it may be as important for the web (and the world) as Google, but for a different purpose.”
Wolfram Alpha will not only give a straight answer to questions such as “how high is Mount Everest?”, but it will also produce a neat page of related information such as geographical location and nearby towns, and other mountains, complete with graphs and charts. If you ask it to compare the height of Mt Everest to the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, it will tell you, says its inventor, Stephen Wolfram, who’s based in US. Wolfram added that the information is “curated”, meaning it is assessed first by experts. This means that the weaknesses of sites such as Wikipedia, where doubts are cast on the information because anyone can contribute, are taken out. It is based on his best-selling Mathematica software, a standard tool for scientists, engineers and academics for crunching complex maths. The engine, which will be free to use, works by drawing on the knowledge on the internet, as well as private databases.