Wolfram Alpha, the "computational knowledge engine" that launched in 2009, is now available in a higher-end Pro version on the Web. The paid service was released on Tuesday, and allows a user to apply analytical tools to a range of data inputs.
Company CEO Stephen Wolfram said that the Pro version's purpose is to offer tools used by data analysis, controlled by natural language processing and integrated with the engine's database of real-world knowledge. While the original Wolfram Alpha relies entirely on its own database of how the world works, Pro also includes the user's data.
Throw the Data at Pro
Wolfram told news media that "you take the data, throw it at Wolfram Alpha Pro, and see what it has to say about it."
For example, dragging an image to the Pro version will result in an image analysis, such as color data and aspect ratio. Pro supports more than 60 file formats for text, data, sound, and other information.
In a demonstration for the press, Pro used the provided data to perform edge detection on a photograph, analyze a picture's color composition, and plot a timeline from a series of dated e-mails. Other examples include creating a color-coded bar chart from a table of data of France's gross domestic product over 50 years, and generating a chart from a table of campaign contributions to specific politicians, complete with a short text summary that noted some comparisons.
The engine can still be used in query mode, or a user can upload data and see what Pro does. Results can be saved in Wolfram's Computational Document Format, which allows interactivity for in-document data, such as some kinds of graphs.
25 Percent for Siri
Wolfram said that computations by the Pro engine will be limited to those that can be conducted reasonably quickly. The user can try again at another time if additional processing is required, and the company has indicated it is intending to increase available processing time. Pro is offered for $4.99 monthly, $2.99 for students.
Stephen Wolfram is a legendary figure in computing circles, as a scientist, software designer, and founder of businesses. He was the force behind Mathematica, a widely used mathematics and engineering software tool, earned his Ph.D from Caltech at 20, and received a MacArthur "genius" award shortly thereafter.
Wolfram Alpha's biggest accomplishment to date is to provide the remote brains for Siri, the intelligent voice assistant for Apple's iPhone 4S. Siri-derived inquiries are now about 25 percent of Alpha's total volume. Alpha is also used in specialized corporate versions for health care, financial and energy companies.
Wolfram is also stepping up its involvement in education. In January, it announced the launch of its Education Portal, which offers dynamic teaching tools such as interactive textbooks, lesson plans for core standards, interactive demos and widgets.
Posted: 2012-02-07 @ 5:38pm PT
Siri uses WA. And Siri is just plain awesome. I use it a lot to interact with my phone. It seems very natural to just ask Siri to do things for me. Here is my blog post describing some of the things I do with Siri. http://www.johnvarghese.com/should-i-wait-for-the-iphone-5-or-buy-the-iphone-4s/
Considering that Siri is this good, I decided to make WA my home page. But after a few searches, I got fed up with the stupid results it gave me. I went back to google as my default search engine.