Computer scientist, Stephen Wolfram, feels that he has put together at least the initial version of a computer that actually answers factual questions, a la Star Trek’s ship computers. His version will be found on their Web-based application, Wolfram Alpha.
What does this mean? Well instead of returning links to pages that may (or may not) contain the answer to your questions, Wolfram will respond with the actual answer. Now the caveat ‘factual’ is important. You can ask it questions like ‘why is the sky blue?’ or ‘how many bones are in the human body?’, but probably not ‘do you think abortion is wrong?’. This computational knowledge engine uses natural language to parse the questions and can also accept coded queries.
For the subject areas that Wolfram covers, they not only had to either enter or import data on those subjects, but had to build models or create algorithms for breaking down and describing that data in simpler building blocks. Long story short, my question is how easy is it going to be expand into additional subject areas?
Don’t bother trying to visit the site just yet – it’s not launching until May 2009. If this works well, this is going to revolutionize computing and in particular, the search engine market. Google of course comes to mind. Would they see this as a threat? I imagine they should. so I think what will be important here is how quickly Wolfram can expand into additional subject areas. If they give Google enough time to get into this market, then they could be sunk.