Wolfram Alpha Unveils Android App

Wolfram Alpha will launch a Google Android app version of its computational search engine Oct. 6. The Wolfram Alpha search engine takes a different approach to answering search queries.

Wolfram Alpha, a search engine designed to offer definitive-and usually numerical-answers rather than links, will launch a native Google Android application to accompany the upcoming T-Mobile G2 smartphone Oct 6. The application is similar in function and appearance to the versions already available for the Apple iPhone and iPad.

The Wolfram Alpha App for Android is compatible with Android versions 1.6 and above, and reportedly costs $1.99. It includes a customized virtual keyboard with easy access to various mathematical symbols and Greek characters. It also takes advantage of Android's voice search capabilities and uses built-in GPS to provide local information such as temperature and weather.

Type in the name of a particular food, and Wolfram Alpha offers a nutritional label tailored to fit the smartphone's screen. The search engine will also change to landscape mode if you turn the device on its side. Those features seem pretty standard-issue for applications of this type. But mathematicians and others in need of a mobile number-cruncher will likely appreciate the ability to rapidly type an equation, one-handed, and receive an answer within a few seconds.

Wolfram Alpha first launched in May 2009, with the goal of offering a twist on traditional keyword-based search: As opposed to offering a list of hyperlinks in response to a search query, a la Google and Bing, Wolfram Alpha tenders a single answer or a list of statistics. Whereas typing "Dennis Hopper" into Google might result in a filmography, lengthy Web biographies and photos, Wolfram Alpha returns life and death dates and a timeline.

Wolfram Alpha has received a number of updates, and its scope now includes time zones, certain European currencies, additional probability computations for cards and coins, and additional output for partitions of integers.

Wolfram Alpha is the brainchild of Stephen Wolfram, founder and CEO of Wolfram Research and creator of Mathematica, a computational platform the symbolic code of which forms the core code base of Wolfram Alpha. Around the time of the Wolfram Alpha launch, other search engines also began moves into the structured-search space: For example, Google launched Google Squared, a search application available via Google Labs that structures information into customized tables.

Microsoft also demonstrated interest in Wolfram Alpha's "Just the facts" take on search. A November 2009 posting on the official Wolfram Alpha blog described a Stephen Wolfram-hosted demonstration of his brainchild's abilities for Bill Gates and other Microsoft executives, after which Microsoft apparently made the decision to begin incorporating Wolfram Alpha results into its Bing search engine.