Back in May of this year I took a look at WolframAlpha in my blog Is WolframAlpha The Next Big Thing In Analytics? Since Wolfram's high profile (rock star) launch things had died down to a muted whisper - not a bad thing as anything as ambitious as Wolfram needs time to mature.
For those not familiar with Wolfram|Alpha, here is a summary of its features from the company itself:
That has changed in the last couple of weeks or so as a number of interesting things have happened:
- Microsoft’s search engine Bing will soon feature results from Wolfram|Alpha. More specifically it will use Wolfram to power certain queries about math, health and nutrition. An oft quoted example is of Bing users who want to compare the nutritional value of a banana versus an orange will get a computed answer piped in from Wolfram|Alpha.
- Wolfram|Alpha just released a AU$60 iPhone app that has proven unexpectedly popular.
- 3 weeks ago the company announced the Wolfram|Alpha API. Microsoft’s Bing decision engine is one of the first API customers.
- Google is moving to counter Wolfram's capabilities. One example is Google's announcement that it now uses public data from the World Bank to display graphs for queries like "internet users in Australia." To do this Google makes uses of the World Bank's public API.
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Here's an example search result using World Bank data:
Both Google and Wolfram are trying to change search into answer. This is a pretty exciting development and I look forward to Microsoft (Wolfram soon to be a subsidiary?) and Google battling it out to answer more of my analytic questions.
As of today, Wolfram has the edge in terms of its ability to answer a surprisingly wide range of questions. Examples include:
- integrate x sin x log x
- $200K mortgage at 7% for 30 years
- words containing mpg
- 100 AUD to euro
- weather in Sydney when Obama was born
- 4th largest female population in Europe
- MSFT vs. Apple vs. IBM (stocks)
- mother's sister's uncle
- 22.214.171.124 (IP addresses)
- 1-5795-5008-8 (barcodes)
- soybeans future (financial markets)
- Statistics & Data Analysis
- Earth Sciences
- Life Sciences
- Technological World
- Computational Sciences
- Web & Computer Systems
- Units & Measures
- Money & Finance
- Dates & Times
- Places & Geography
- Socioeconomic Data
- Health & Medicine
- Food & Nutrition
- Words & Linguistics
- Culture & Media
- People & History
- Sports & Games
Google however still has the edge in terms of flexibility in mining a vastly wider number of textual sources. Google's data mining (and answering) ambitions seem more modest when compared to Wolfram, but I suspect that the Bing announcement has driven Google Labs into overdrive. Expect more announcements over the coming year.