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Some of you may have recently heard about Stephen Wolfram's ambitious project to create a comprehensive "computational knowledge engine". The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University hosted a sneak preview of the WolframAlpha system, and a discussion of its underlying technology and implications. Basically the goal of the project is to take any information that can be computed and combine and package it so that people can access this knowledge from a single source or search. As Stephen Wolfram points out,
Like interacting with an expert it will understand what you are talking about, do the computation and present to you results.”
Here's the presentation (which lacked professional filming) that is available on via YouTube.
To see the Wolfram|Alpha engine in action, check out this clip:
Wolfram Alpha appears to be all about compiling various data sources and making it easy for people to search information on these types of data sources, complete with charts and graphs. Interestingly enough at the same time, Google announced the launch a new search feature that makes it easy to find and compare public data. Last week Danny Sullivan shared his thoughts on Wolfram Alpha and whether it can live up to the hype. In his post, Sullivan makes a number of interesting points with regards to the Wolfram Alpha project:
But they will get compared to Google, and if they want to avoid looking like a failure if six months down the road they’ve failed to gain Google-like traffic (much less Microsoft-like traffic), then they need to do a better job of positioning what this service is and who it is for.
Hmm I'd have to agree with a number of Sullivan's point although I do think that he is a little bitter about not getting the "scoop" on the project. However, you have to think that if you were the next big "Search Engine" that you would want Danny Sullivan to be in the know simply for the viral opportunity. It will be interesting to see where this goes. We've seen hype like this before only to quickly fizzle into oblivion.