Sunday, 17 May 2009

Wolfram Alpha

After all the hype, Wolfram Aplha was launched this weekend and has already attracted tremendous media coverage. It's been touted as the future face of internet. Unlike traditional search engines, it claims to be an "answer engine" rather than a search engine. You type in the question and it come up with an answer ... nice.. isn't it. Sounds like the "Computer" in science fiction movies.

Unlike google, it's not a search engine. It's a "knowledge engine" containing trillions of data elements stored in a manner that computation is possible on them. Mathemetica, also developed by Steven Wolframe is at the heart of the engine. I did some queries on the engine like "What is the population of the world" and "center of the earth" and it came up with the numbers - very impressive

Then I remember that is a "I'm feeling lucky" button on google, which also make an "intelligent guess" on your answer. I typed in the same questions "What is the population of the world" and "center of the earth" and google took to wikipedia page about the population of world - not exactly what I asked for. Wolfram Alpha scored over google.

But then I asked a non-factual question "Who is Roger federer's wife" and wolfram alpha was stumped. Asked the same on google and it promptly came up with the page of his wife's details.
I tried another question "best place to eat in London" and wolfram alpha didn't return an answer. Asked the same to google and pressed the "I'm feeling lucky" button it came up with a list of restaurants - not exactly and answer but let me choose from a list of good restaurants. This is exactly what I wanted.

The matter of fact is that it is almost impossible to find answers of absolute everything. A lot of things have answers, which depend upon the context in which the question is asked. The question "Best restaurant in London" would have a different answer depending upon the person's own likes or dislikes. So until an engine like Wolfram Alpha has a historical perspective of every visiting person (which itself is a scary thought), it is very difficult to complete what the ultimate vision of the project is.

Also, the hype that Wolfram Alpha will replace google is not true as said by the creater himself.

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