Friday, December 21, 2018


To some internet users, it may have felt like only yesterday when typing in a query for information in a search engine website on an internet browser felt like a novelty. These days we have smart assistants on computers or dedicated gadgets like home speakers that can recognize human speech to do what has been asked. But with many of these smart speakers, requesting info may still result in a display of websites with the answer, rather than spelling it out. Amazon’s Alexa speaker however, is integrating with an online “answer engine” to potentially reply the answer to any question directly, such as math calculations.
According to The Verge, Amazon has followed the lead of Apple by having their Alexa smart assistant be integrated with Wolfram Alpha, an answer engine developed since 2009 by computational tech developer Wolfram Research. This will now enable her to do more in responding to a user’s query for information than just presenting a list of results from search engines and similar resources. Before this integration, Alexa searches usually comb through online general info services like Wikipedia, Accuweather, and Yelp. Now, with the algorithm power of Wolfram Alpha, Alexa speakers can now just state the answer to a question.
The precision and sheer scale of processing power devoted to Wolfram Alpha enables its standalone answer engine website to reply to “factual queries” – questions of fact – through computation of an answer from curated data take from the internet. Therefore, a question put to the Wolfram Alpha engine like “What is the value of Pi down to ten decimal places?” will have it reply with the exact figure, the same as for when it is asked what the current wind speed in a given location is. It is no wonder that more schools are beginning to put their trust on the Wolfram Alpha service for facts.
Smart-home owners that rely on Amazon Echo speakers with Alexa on them might be pleased to know that she can now do mathematical equations and similar feats alongside its usual functions following the integration of Wolfram Alpha. Amazon customers can finally have the same advantages afforded to Apple’s own assistant Siri, which was the first prominent smart assistant to get Wolfram Alpha integration since 2011 on the iPhone 4S. Both Alexa and Siri might arguable have the edge now in answering capabilities over Google Assistant, which prefers to get results from its proprietary search engine.
Image courtesy of Tech Crunch


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