Bing and Wolfram Alpha together: clever move

Wolfram Alpha is a smart, computational take on the search engine, but it gets even smarter when it's paired with Bing.

Wolfram Alpha is a smart, computational take on the search engine, but its new partnership with Microsoft and its Bing search engine is even smarter.

Gradually, Bing is rolling out Wolfram Alpha integration for searches related to health and nutrition. Need to know the fat content of your lunch, or your own body? When you search in Bing for, say, "Body Mass Index," a BMI calculator powered by Wolfram Alpha will appear atop the results.

It's a neat feature that provides more ammunition in Microsoft's war against Google, but the bigger beneficiary is Wolfram Alpha, and by proxy, curious Web searchers.

On its own, Wolfram Alpha can be disappointing, because you never know if the so-called "computational knowledge engine" will spit back the results you're looking for. Wolfram Alpha interprets your search as query for specific information, and draws on terabytes of hand-picked facts to get the answer.

But finding what you want, in my experience, is a crap shoot. For instance, I can't get Wolfram Alpha to tell me, or even estimate, how many fish are in the ocean. Searching for "number of fish in the ocean" returns an estimate of total ocean fish biomass, measured in metric tons, and a follow up search for "ocean fish quantity" returned no results at all. I encounter similar problems every time I revisit the engine to see how it's holding up.

The point is, you don't know what Wolfram Alpha knows, which makes the product unreliable. That problem is solved when Bing uses Wolfram Alpha's application programming interface for search results, because you're restricted to a very specific topic--in this case, health and nutrition--in which Wolfram Alpha excels.

Wolfram Alpha should be doing more of these partnerships. Nutrition is just a fraction of what the engine knows, and it'd be cool to see more of its vast knowledge appear in Web searches. It's not clear whether the partnership with Bing is exclusive in any way, but Microsoft shouldn't drop the ball on gobbling up more of what Wolfram Alpha can do.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags wolfram alphabing

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?