Recently Stephen Wolfram gave a presentation about his new WolframAlpha which he calls the “computation knowledge engine”. While we wait for the launch, we can get an idea about its role in future. One thing’s for sure, it’s not going to be a threat to services like Google or Wikipedia.
After his speech, it has become abundantly clear that it will not rival Google or Wikipedia, but it will compliment them, and other services like them.
In fact, he indicated that they use Wikipedia for popular data, data such as information about celebrities, etc. Also he entertained the idea of Google using their services.
In summary it will not be the next Google or Wikipedia.
So what is it going to be?
It is going to be a service that can process a query and provide factual information which is computed mathematically. In other words, it is not going to, necessarily, look for pages in the web and find the best link, but instead it will calculate the results.
So the real difference between WolframAlpha and any other search engine is that it instead of looking up certain keywords, it will try to figure out what a query means computationally. Like Rucker mentioned in his article that when you type in 3/26/2009 + 90 days, instead of looking for the actual text, it will understand that the user wants to add two dates together, so the result will be 90 days after 3/26.
Similarly, if you type in “temperature in los angeles” it will present the current temperature, the temperature over last week, projections, and historical temperatures.
In my previous article, I mentioned that Google and Microsoft (kumo) are implementing/implemented a new semantic search that understands the meaning of queries too. So what is new here? The new thing here is that WolframAlpha uses mathematical models to compute answers, essentially making textual data computable.
In a nutshell, WolframAlpha will be your next resource for factual information not a search engine. It will definitely be a great leap for mankind if it delivers it’s promises. It will bring us one step closer to making knowledge easily accessible to everyone.
Video that actually shows some of the slides: