Bing Lures Stargazers, Solves Rubik's Cubes

Microsoft's search engine helps users explore constellations and revel in '80s nostalgia, among other new experiences.

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Now that the school year is well under way, Microsoft has rolled out a few new Bing-powered educational experiences, including one developed specifically for stargazers and budding astrologists.

Now using the term "constellations" or searching for a specific constellation in Bing will call up the company's new interactive constellations viewer. "Bing uses location identification technology to show which stars and constellations are above or below the horizon if you were to look at the sky at night," wrote the Microsoft Bing team in a blog post. "You can click on any constellation to learn more, such as Perseus in the example below, or hover over individual stars to identify them."

Similarly, chemists-in-training can explore 2D models of molecules by simple typing in their names in the Bing search bar. Bing's interactive molecule answers provide a look into a molecule's makeup and structure. "You can hover over individual elements and electron pairs to learn more about how chemical elements bond to form molecules, and click and drag elements to 'play' with the molecule on the screen," added the Bing crew.

A new vocabulary-enriching feature, called World of Words, generates a "word cloud" based on several different parameters. The educational aid—also helpful with crossword puzzles—displays words that start with, contain or end with letters of a user's choosing. It can display results based on the frequency in which they occur in text, length, popularity in search and Scrabble score.

For students struggling to properly format footnotes and compile bibliographies, Microsoft introduced a new citation tool. And users who want to explore the family trees of the world's royals can use searches like the "Romanov dynasty" to call up an interactive lineage chart, complete with a "Did You Know?" section that organizes family members into two categories, relatives by blood and by marriage, and offers other nuggets of information.

Microsoft also announced recently that its mobile Bing apps for iOS and Android supports the open-source AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) initiative intended to make searching and consuming online news faster. The apps prioritize articles with associated AMP pages, lightweight yet content-rich pages that download fast and are tailored to mobile screens (denoted with a lightning icon). "We started experimenting with AMP in our Bing App last May and have noticed that AMP pages load, on average, approximately 80 percent faster than non-AMP pages," stated Marcelo De Barros, group engineering manager at Bing, in a separate blog post.

A new Submitter Dashboard helps users who submit DMCA notices keep better track of the copyright removal requests they made to the search engine. The dashboard furnishes several submission statistics, included the number of submissions, how many were approved and rejected, and how many are pending. The tool also offers similar statistics for alleged infringing URLs.

Finally, Microsoft has added an interactive, 3D Rubik's Cube solver for enthusiasts and users who are scratching their '80s nostalgia itch with the popular toy. Simply entering "Rubik's Cube" into Bing's search box brings up the feature.

"Rotate and drag the cube with your mouse (or use the tool in the top right) to move the cube on your own or use our instant solver tool to advance the cube through an easy-to-follow solving algorithm," stated the company. "Our solver shows you how to reach the end goal step-by-step and can run at any speed so you can follow along at your own pace or watch the puzzle get solved blazingly fast!"

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...