The next big thing: Wolfram | Alpha
When talking about Stephen Wolfram, people in the field of complex systems will naturally think of his well-known book A new kind of Science and the software Mathematica. Now he and his researchers will publicize a new kind of search engine: Wolfram|Alpha , the so-called computational knowledge engine. It will be open to the public pretty soon.
Some people asked Stephen if Wolfram|Alpha wanted to be the google-killer. He said no, " the goal of Alpha is to give everyone access to expert knowledge and the data that a specialist would be able to compute from this information."
So what's special about this search engine? Here is the quote from Read Write Web:
Alpha, which will go live within the next few weeks, is quite different from Google and really doesn't directly compete with it at all. Instead of searching the web for info, Alpha is built around a vast repository of curated data from public and licensed sources. Alpha then organizes and computes this knowledge with the help of sophisticated Natural Language Processing algorithms. Users can ask Alpha any kind of question, which can be constructed just like a Google search (think: "hurricane bob" or "carbon steel strength").
I haven't got the chance to try it yet. But Some snapshots can be found here. Also, here is a sneak review of WolframAlpha. Just looking at the results, I was very amazed. By inputting information like GDP in Europe, you could get many interesting graphs, demographic data, and GDP-related data, which used to be probably only available for experts in this field or took lots of effort for a non-expert to secure.
For researchers, I assume it could be of even greater value, since we all know the pain of researching for relevant and reliable research data.