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Microsoft Technology

Bing To Use Wolfram Alpha Results 179

angry tapir writes "Microsoft is rolling out some enhancements to its Bing search engine, including some that rely on computational information delivered by Wolfram Alpha. That means that people will be able to search for some complicated information, and the search engine will be able to compute the answers. In a blog post, Tracey Yao, program manager, and Pedro Silva, product manager at Microsoft, give some examples."
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Bing To Use Wolfram Alpha Results

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  • brb (Score:5, Funny)

    by russlar ( 1122455 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:05AM (#30069534)
    brb, dividing by zero on bing
  • Hellllooo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:08AM (#30069544)
    Been using Wolfram-enhanced search already - and without the b*** crap.

    What else ya got...
    • by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (bob_eissua)> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:23AM (#30069632) Journal
      What else ya got...

      An opportunity to flood tech sites with more Bingspam, what else do you want?

      Microsoft is so desperate for page hits on Bo^Hing, I'm surprised they're not bribing schoolkids with boiled sweets already.

      • Microsoft is so desperate for page hits on Bo^Hing, I'm surprised they're not bribing schoolkids with boiled sweets already.

        I dunno the computer labs at my sisters school switched to Bing homepages and gave out candy on the same day. Coincidence? Maybe, but I wouldn't put it past them.

    • Been using Wolfram-enhanced search already - and without the b*** crap.

      Dude, you can say 'bull', we won't be offended. Honest! :-D

  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:09AM (#30069546)

    A clock has at least two hands depicting the hour and minute of the day. If stopped, it would appear that the clock is useless, but twice a day the clock tells the current time perfectly. What matters most is that you look at the clock at precisely those two moments to tell the time. Otherwise the tool just doesn't work as you'd expect it.

    So when you take two tools that aren't very good, sometimes you end up with something that might be useful. But then again, just because you have two hands doesn't mean you're going to end up doing something useful. One hand could be occupied or paralyzed or otherwise out of commission. The other hand could be gimpy or not your favored hand or even cut off entirely if you lived in Saudi Arabia.

    What I'm trying to say here is simply what you all are already thinking. Who is actually using Bing? Furthermore, who is actually using Alpha? These two useless hands working together just makes it easier to forget them both altogether.

    • by sys.stdout.write ( 1551563 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:12AM (#30069572)

      What I'm trying to say here is simply what you all are already thinking

      Next time, could you put that at the top of your post so I can skip it without having to first read a bad analogy?

    • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:13AM (#30069578)
      erm, the term is "even a broken clock is right twice a day"
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Korin43 ( 881732 )
      I use Wolfram Alpha to help with homework (it doesn't just calculate things, it will walk you through how it did it), but I can't think of any reason I'd want Wolfram Alpha results to show up during a web search. When I have Wolfram Alpha open, I usually have it open for hours, so it's not like mixing this in with other search engine results is helpful.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sopssa ( 1498795 ) *

        Google (and Bing I think) are displaying quick info on calculations, currency conversations and such too. This is just taking a step further in that, and I gotta admit it's handy. This again actually makes me want to move to Bing again, considering quality of search results are quite equivalent with Google.

        • by tibman ( 623933 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @03:40AM (#30070110) Homepage

          For kicks i checked out bing. It looks nearly identical to google : / The news page does, for sure. I don't have JS enabled for either site, so that might be why. The top nav bars are identical too. The shopping pages look different! Ok, searched for "arduino" on both. Google wins that one. Bing only showed one arduino item (a book, not even the device) and google had all correct results minus one. Ohh, bing images looks good.. correctly showing all arduino pictures too. Ah, but i can't click on anything.. must need javascript enabled. Google is showing similar pictures.. and works without javascript.

          I'm still sold on google. Bing looks much cleaner than google though. Google still looks geeky with it's "I did your search in (0.04 seconds)" thing.. can't see that as being very useful. Bing looks more polished but Google is more functional.

          • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 )

            I want to know which search engine is the least threat to my privacy. I'll use that one, thanks.
            • That will be the public library, then (as long as you're not in the USA).
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by ais523 ( 1172701 )
              Probably Cuil, actually (which still exists and which has been giving decent results recently). I would have considered Wikia Search too, but it's apparently shut down.
              • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 )

                Wow! I'd never heard of Cuil [] (linked for the lazy) and it's actually quite nice. I like the summary accompanying each result and the option to search by category. I'll put that into my browser for a few days and see how it goes. Cheers!
        • Has anyone actually tried out Bing to get Wolfram Alpha results? They don't work for me. Is this only for within the US?

^2&form=QBLH []

          These just show the web results for me, no WA. I even enabled JS and there is nothing in the preferences. :-/

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Lets try what is the temperature in melbourne

        Wolfram gives me the best result IMHO, and google the worst. Bing is close to wolfram but using a different source of data. For the average luser out there a nice chart or graphic is better than a link which you have to follow.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Maybe you should try your search as "Melbourne weather" instead. The results differ.

          In addition, I used " weather" on all three, and found that Google displayed a pretty picture, whilst Bing didn't know about it.

          Wolfram is of course more useful, with the graphing and whatnot.

        • by Korin43 ( 881732 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @03:20AM (#30070054) Homepage
          temperature in melbourne [] works just fine. I guess I just never phrase search queries as complete sentences. You'd think Google would be smart enough to try the query without the "what is" though.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by the_womble ( 580291 )

          Try a few more searches. WA was the best for "uk time" and Bing the worst. Google UK was the best for "glaxo share price" (and the only one that gave me what I wanted), and again Bing was the worst. Wolfram gave the right answer in the wrong currency (the primary listing in London, so the price should be in GBP pence.

          • by Korin43 ( 881732 )
            Wolfram is a U.S. site, so it makes sense that they'd use dollars. I find it's most useful because you can specify how you want the answer (in this case glaxo share price in british pounds). I do find it strange that they don't detect where you live and base it on that.
            • You want a laugh? Ask for the IBM share price in zimbabwean dollars -- apparently the low price was -Z$47.51, about four months ago.

        • by fermion ( 181285 )
          I would say that bing gave the best results to the question, in terms of presentation. I would say that google answered the question exactly, and Wolfram gave TMI.

          Bing is clearly trying to be the search engine for the masses, a one stop shop for anything. In this it is being successful, and may be the future. I don't currently see the value in a one stop shop as I know where to go if I want a different information. For weather, I go to the NOAA or the weather channel. For math inform I go to mathworl

    • In that the current google search is so good for the majority of users, that they are trying to grab at a few disatisfied straws. I can't really think of a way google search fails me, but perhaps if the results were presented a different way, I could see the clear-cut differences and improvements.

      I think text search is pretty much there. The one thing I would appreciate is a better image search, and not relying on text of the image name, but being able to describe it, or sketch a rough outline, and for a

    • Actually, the Alpha's concept is good. It just needs more data and computing capacity.
      I'm surprised Google didn't find it before M$.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Who is actually using Bing?

      Well unfortunately here in Canada the Multiple Listing Service, which almost all Realtors use to advertise real estate for sale, has switched over to Bing from Google and Google maps. It is a large decrease in usability and functionality. But then MLS seems to feel a need to completely change it's public interface for the worse every year or two - I guess they have to or nobody would bother hiring a Realtor.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by weeb0 ( 741451 )

      Who is actually using Bing?

      simple, everybody that don't understand the difference between the address edit zone and the search edit zone. The one that don't understand what is internet and using IE and like it! ( because it is an habit and never tried anything else ).

  • Bleh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by adamkennedy ( 121032 ) <adamk@c[ ].org ['pan' in gap]> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:10AM (#30069562) Homepage

    So far I haven't been terribly impressed with Wolfram Alpha.

    For example, searching for the price of oil in non-US dollars results in a US dollar timeline multiplied by the CURRENT exchange rate of that foreign currency, not in the historical timeline. It's like Alpha is having a stab at an answer, but isn't smart enough to know when it's answering the question wrong.

    • Yeah I tried Wolfram|Alpha out [] when it was first released with pretty crappy results. Just not sure how a meh site is going to improved by a crappy one.
    • So far I haven't been terribly impressed with Wolfram Alpha.

      Neither was I.

      I asked the thing a simple question, pertinent to the minds of many: "How to get rich quick?" and it went on about some nonsense about surnames of "Quick" and "Rich" and how many of these there are in the US...

      I mean, yes it was a joke but seriously, this "semantic" search engine is incapable of doing even most basic natural language parsing, something that AI research projects were capable of back in the 1960s, instead assuming th

    • We've combined Bing and Alpha and you get: Bleh!
  • by dackroyd ( 468778 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:12AM (#30069574) Homepage

    It will be interesting how Bing presents Wolfram Alpha and whether it removes the inherent design flaws in it. There is an insightful but long article about the problems here - wolfram alpha and hubristic user interfaces []. Two good quotes from which are:

    Hype also generates funding because it generates exaggerated sales projections. For instance:

            "What Wolfram Alpha will do," Wolfram says, "is let people make use of the achievements of science and engineering on an everyday basis, much as the Web and search engines have let billions of people become reference librarians, so to speak."
            It could do things the average person might want (such as generating customized nutrition labels) as well as things only geeks would care about (such as generating truth tables for Boolean algebraic equations).

    Generating customized nutrition labels! The average person! I just laughed so hard, I needed a complete change of clothing.

    Dr. Wolfram, may I mention a word to you? That word is MySpace. If there is any such person as this average person, she has a MySpace account. Does she generate customized nutrition labels? On a regular basis, or just occasionally? In what other similar activities does she engage - monitoring the population of Burma? Graphing the lifecycle of stars? Charting Korean copper consumption since the 1960s? Perhaps you should feed MySpace into your giant electronic brain, and see what comes out.


    Google is not a control interface; WA is. When you use WA, you know which of these tools you wish to select. You know that when you type "two cups of flour and two eggs" (which now works) you are looking for a Nutrition Facts label. It is only Stephen Wolfram's giant electronic brain which has to run ten million lines of code to figure this out. Inside your own brain, it is written on glowing letters across your forehead.

    So the giant electronic brain is doing an enormous amount of work to discern information which the user knows and can enter easily: which tool she wants to use.

    When the giant electronic brain succeeds in this task, it has saved the user from having to manually select and indicate her actual data-visualization application of choice. This has perhaps saved her some time. How much? Um, not very much.

    When the giant electronic brain fails in this task, you type in Grandma's fried-chicken recipe and get a beautiful 3-D animation of a bird-flu epidemic. (Or, more likely, "Wolfram Alpha wasn't sure what to do with your input." Thanks, Wolfram Alpha!) How do you get from this to your Nutrition Facts? Rearrange some words, try again, bang your head on the desk, give up. What we're looking at here is a classic, old-school, big steaming lump of UI catastrophe. ....

    The task of "guess the application I want to use" is actually not even in the domain of artificial intelligence. AI is normally defined by the human standard. To work properly as a control interface, Wolfram's guessing algorithm actually requires divine intelligence. It is not sufficient for it to just think. It must actually read the user's mind. God can do this, but software can't.

    • Grandma's fried-chicken recipe: Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure how to compute an answer from your input
    • It must actually read the user's mind. God can do this

      Google is God?

      Of course!... the motto finally makes sense!

    • It could do things the average person might want (such as generating customized nutrition labels) as well as [...].

      Generating customized nutrition labels! The average person! I just laughed so hard, I needed a complete change of clothing.

      That guy has never seen a women on a diet. And I think you missed a level of <quote>-tags

  • Good move, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tonycheese ( 921278 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:14AM (#30069584)

    While this is interesting and possibly useful, it seems to me there's nothing stopping Google from turning around and doing the exact same thing. Wolfram is unaffiliated with either party as far as I know and certainly wouldn't mind getting exposure on the bigger of the two search engines as well.

    And hey, I already do multiplication and find constants in my Google search box, it might be nice to do integrals and whatnot as well! In the meantime, if I have a specific enough question I'll just go directly to Wolfram's site to ask.

    • You are a special case, though. You are kind of a geek and have heard of Wolfram Alpha. The question is, will normal people notice that they are suddenly getting unusually useful answers out of Bing? If they do, then they will start using Bing more often. If Bing is sufficiently better than Google, I will start using it too.

      But I don't think it will be better to the average person (or to me). Unless Wolfram Alpha starts making massive improvements, it will remain a toy.
    • Closer to home, most of the simple math I do on my computer, I do in in MacOS X's Spotlight.

      If I have a specific enough question, I ask google :)

    • there's nothing stopping Google from turning around and doing the exact same thing.

      But really, why would they? Google's results often contain links to exactly the same places. And arguably more useful places, too.

      Google Dodecahedron [] and you get #1 - #2

      I tried using Wolfram Alpha, but every time I do it tells me "Wolfram Alpha wasn't sure what to do with your input."

    • by josath ( 460165 )
      Maybe Google doesn't feel like burning huge piles of cash on the wolfram API? Have you seen how much they charge [] for it?

      It starts at a minimum commitment of $2,000/mo at $0.10 per query. At the high end it's $220,000/mo at $0.023 per query. I wonder how much google makes off each search? Can't be much more than that.
  • Next up... (Score:5, Funny)

    by BountyX ( 1227176 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:26AM (#30069656)
    Bing to use google results!
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:29AM (#30069662)

    For very narrow queries, where you already know ahead of time Wulfram Alpha supports it, you can get useful structured information out of it. For example, if you look up a first name or surname, you can get information on popularity and geographic distribution and such. But the only time I've ever gotten useful information like that is when I already knew that it supported a particular kind of query. That's less like a search engine, and more like just querying a database. There have always been special-purpose databases on the internet where you can look up specific information, once you know that such a database exists for a particular kind of fact. What Alpha utterly fails to do is answer any useful proportion of queries without already knowing in advance exactly what you need to query and what syntax to use when doing so.

    And yes, I've seen Wulfram's talks on it, and they're crap. He presented via videoconference at IJCAI IJCAI 2009 [], which he only got into because of the hype (sure, it's blind review, but it's hard to have blind review of a Wulfram Alpha paper that identifies itself as such in the paper), and there was no technical information at all, nor AI advances that weren't already done by like the 1960s (the AI advance in question is "querying a database").

    Maybe Bing has something up their sleeve, but I'd bet on it being more hype.

  • by T Murphy ( 1054674 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:42AM (#30069740) Journal
    Wolfram Alpha is well known to badly guess what you are trying to do, and has plenty of graphs and charts. Now add a liberal amount of Microsoft flavoring to it, and you have a cross between Clippy and a really bad PowerPoint presentation... let's hope Microsoft never tries to help "improve" WA.
    • LOL. I'll bet a dollar that this is more or less how the two go about creating a new standard in hype engines.


    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      What's more likely is that Wolfram will barely survive the knife MS is sure to stick in their back. I predict within 3 years, MS will announce its own version. Wolfram, acting like a blushing bride running back to Mommy crying, will file a lawsuit which will be mired in legal limbo until a settlement is reached.

  • by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:53AM (#30069786) Homepage

    How can the suckiness of Microsoft be reversed? It said:


    This wolfram thing might be working out after all.

  • How long will it take Microsoft to try to patent complex computational searches?

  • Bing may incorporate some Wolfram Alpha functionality - but if you "search the web" from Wolfram Alpha's website, it sends you to Google.

  • As if Bing users had the brains to even spell "math" correctly. Because if they had the brains, they wouldn't use Bing in the first place. ^^

  • I already get Wolfram Alpha results in my Google searches with the "Wolfram Alpha Google" add-on. Plus, no ads...

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.