WolframAlpha: A New Breed of Search

I spent some time today playing with WolframAlpha, a relatively new option for searching the vast knowledge base that is the Internet. Rather than offer up links to various sites that may contain relevant information like Google or other mainstream search engines, WolframAlpha makes intelligent inferences about what you want to know and offers additional information that may be closely related to your search.

For instance, I wanted to know something about the F# Minor scale in music, so I entered f# minor in the search box. What I got for my effort was this. Additional suggestions for search are offered and can be pasted into the search box to lead you in new directions.

In another instance, I wanted to know the current sunset time in San Diego, so I entered San Diego sunset. WA inferred that I was interested in today’s sunset and offered me that information. As it also knows my current geographic location (Moscow ID) by my IP address, it also offered me the sunset information for Moscow, as well as the differences in length of day for the two locations.

So what does this all mean for human performance? Clearly, we have the beginnings of a robust information retrieval and knowledge management tool that can goes way beyond the typical search engine. WA is still in its infancy and is limited in some areas, but the promise of a new paradigm for gaining knowledge and supporting performance is exciting.

The site offers a short video tour; I highly recommend a look to get an idea of how WA works. If you like it, you can also download a widget for typing your search right from the desktop.

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