Wolfram Research announced the launch of the Wolfram Alpha computation engine. The new tool is intended to provide specific and precise factual answers to questions rather than present a list of Web sites which may or may not contain the correct answer. A key problem in search technology today is that such systems provide “results” instead of answers. 50% of all searches fail as a result; we have found that 50% of searches people believe succeeded also failed in some other way, by not providing the most up-to-date, accurate, or correct information although the individual conducting the search believes the answer is correct at the time.
Back in March, founder Stephen Wolfram wrote on his Web site that, “[F]ifty years ago, when computers were young, people assumed that they’d quickly be able to handle all these kinds of things … and that one would be able to ask a computer any factual question and have it compute the answer.” We all know that’s not how things turned out simply by going to Google, currently the most popular online search tool, and entering a search query.
Wolfram Alpha, according to Wolfram himself, understands questions that users input and then calculates answers based on its extensive mathematical and scientific engine.
The system is scheduled to go live later today at www.wolframalpha.com. We’ll find out then whether Wolfram has found a way to build a better search tool.
David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.