The Wolfram Alpha Demo Returns, This Time With Actual Footage Of The Service


Yesterday, days of hype culminated in the unveiling of the Wolfram Alpha search engine, which made its debut at a presentation put on by Harvard University’s Berkman Center. Unfortunately the resulting video footage turned out to be an exercise in frustration (or boredom). Not because it was uninteresting, mind you, but because we couldn’t see the apparently innovative search engine that creator Stephen Wolfram was talking about.

Apparently someone has had a change of heart over the media squeeze, because the Berkman Center has posted a new version of the video (or at least 10 minutes of it), this time with footage of the service.

This portion of the video includes a number of queries, including calculating the GDP of France (which results in a graph of the GDP over time) and the number in Internet users in Europe, generating a relevant histogram. During a query for the weather in Lexington, Massachusetts, the search engine generated a plot of temperature over time, including a prediction for the near future. A query for $17/hour produced a table of the same conversion at different scales (though it is difficult to make out in the video).

The engine looks awesome for science students and researchers. A search for 5M H2SO4 produced a calculation determining how much of each reagent would be needed to make it (basic chemistry, but handy nonetheless). It looks like it can handle a variety of similar calculations, like determining the current state of a chemical at various pressure and temperature conditions, complete with phase diagram.

The next query shows off how the engine can be used for health issues. A search for LDL 180 (a measure of your ‘bad’ cholesterol) displays a graph depicting how that figure stands relative to the general population. Wolfram then shows how the engine can perform the same task for a different age range.

All in all, I’m impressed. Granted, this doesn’t look like any kind of Google replacement, at least for general search terms or news. And as Danny Sullivan pointed out, these could have been terms handpicked because they performed well on the engine. But I’m excited nonetheless, and look forward to trying it out for myself.

Thanks to Ali Abuhassan for the tip.