Most people know “Wolfram” as either the creators of the symbolic processing program ‘mathematica’ or the mathematics resource website mathworld.
The designers have been working on a new search engine. I will not say “google-killer” as it really is not a google killer. It is a different ‘type’ of search engine altogether that I believe can coexist with google. It is not a search engine but rather a “computing engine” with built in artifical intelligence as well as a natural language filter. In other words, this engine figures out the answer to your question and then gives you the answer, rather than present you with the best sites that may contain the answer. It determines what you are asking, then gives you the answer. Intrigued?
Hit the jump if you want to know more.
Lets take a simple query, such as “who was the nba finals mvp in 2004.” There are many different approaches to finding the answer to this question in google. I could simply type in the entire query and could search the results for the answer. The great thing about the internet, is that most questions that one posits, have already been answered. Therein lies the beauty and simplicity of google. Type in a question and google ‘knows’ the question has already been asked, and therefore directs you to the most relevant websites. In this regard, google is a great tool.
Now lets assume, for arguments sake, that this question was never asked, and thus entering the entire query as such would fail to retrieve the answers we so desire. Hope is not lost as google is a clever girl. You could search for ‘nba finals mvp’ or any combination of the words. A little more leg work will be necessary in order to find the exact answer, but nonetheless the asnwer can still be found with relatively little work. After all, entire courses are created with teaching students how to search databases, it is a skill and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
But where does wolfram alpha (WA for short) fit into all this? As I mentioned before, WA aims to incorporate artificial intelligence as well as a natural language filter to help narrow query results down. Let us take the previous query and enter it into WA. If everything goes as it should, then you would be able to enter the query as is and you should get the result you want.
Did you notice that I said ‘result’ and not ‘results?’ Thanks to th a.i. and natural language filter, If i asked the question “who was the nba finals mvp in 2004″ and hit search, the result will simply be “Chauncy Billups.” No results to search through, no websites to analyze.
For too long, we have treated search engines like libraries and not like professors. Let’s use the same query again, but in a world without computers. If I wanted to know the answer, I would go to a library and look it up. I would have to search through books, articles, periodicals, etc to find the answer (Modern Day Search Engine). Another solution however, would be to go to an expert and ask them directly (WA). No searching, no analyzing, and I get the result instantly. In this case, I would ask Professor Luke Walton at the University of Basketball in Los Angeles.
In this analogy, google would be the library and WA would be the expert. In real life, when you ask someone a question, they don’t present you with a list of topics that they think you want to know, they understand the question and give you the answer. This my friends, is what is on the horizon of search engine technology, and WA aims to bring it to our doorsteps.
The implications of this kind of search tool are more than you can come to realize. WA is the first of next generation search engines and I believe will revolutionize the way we conduct research in the future. The type of search engines that we know and are used to have been around for a decade. Google has come out on top and has perfected this technology. But as technology advances so do the people that use them.
I think it will be years before we understand the potential of something like WA and fully learn how to utilize it. The next generation of search engines is in its infancy, but it is coming and it is exciting indeed.