Microsoft’s new search engine Bing is now using the computational engine known as Wolfram Alpha to answer some of its users’ search queries. Wolfram Alpha is an entirely different sort of search engine than anything that Microsoft, Google, or Yahoo offers – it’s built on top of Mathematica, a program used in scientific, engineering, and mathematical fields. As with Mathematica, Wolfram Alpha can handle math questions input into its search box, but it can also answer queries about physics and chemistry, nutritional information, weather, census data, financial information, and more. Although its scope is more limited than a traditional search engine, when asked a question it understands, it gives a real answer instead of just a list of linked search results.
Of course, the challenge for any newcomer to search is gaining awareness and then getting people to remember what the engine can be used for and when to use it. An often better solution, as it turns out, is to integrate a unique search engine’s content and capabilities into an already-established brand’s traditional search service. Microsoft did this once before with their acquisition of Powerset, the natural language processing engine that now powers Wolfram Alpha integration will offer answers in the areas of nutrition, fitness, and math.
In the case of the nutrition/fitness questions, Bing users can query for nutritional information, calculate body mass index, and more. For example, when you search for a food item on Bing, you’ll be presented with a nutrition tab which, like a food label, displays the details about the nutritional info in that food item.
Another example is how a search for “bmi calculator” will pull up an actual calculation tool right at the top of the search results.
As far as math queries, Bing can now answer math questions – even highly complex ones. Might be a good way to check your homework problems before turning them in!
If you’re not seeing these same results, that’s because the rollout hasn’t reached you just yet – stay tuned. It’s being pushed out over the next few days to all users.