Apple’s digital secretary named Siri, an iPhone 4S exclusive, is now responsible for nearly 25 percent of all searches conducted on Wolfram Alpha, an answer-engine developed by Wolfram Research.

As you know, Apple collaborated with Wolfram Alpha on Siri (Microsoft is another licensee), and took advantage of algorithms powering Mathematica, another Wolfram Research product. It lets users type in complex factual queries, and then Wolfram Alpha computes accurate answers from its structured data containing hundreds of datasets.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based Company fancies Wolfram Alpha’s curated knowledge database, which is a nice fit for the iPhone 4S’s factual question answering feature. According to the New York Times’ Steve Lohr, Siri accounts for a quarter of all Wolfram Alpha queries after four months:

Siri accounts for about a quarter of the queries fielded by Wolfram Alpha, whose staff has grown to 200.

Google should be worried, as this could be another sign of Siri users becoming accustomed to retrieving factual answers from Wolfram Alpha and not Google. For example: Telling Siri to “Google the iPhone” launches Safari with Google search results accompanied by text-based adverts, but just asking “How many days are there until Easter” produces a formatted answer from Wolfram Alpha with no advertising whatsoever. This is also important knowing that a quarter of all searches on mobile devices are conducted through voice commands.

As Wolfram bolsters its datasets over time, the range of questions that can be answered continues to grow. Apple is continuously updating Siri with new third-party trusted sources, as well. For example, Siri —as of recently— includes Best Buy product search that takes advantage of the retailer’s vast product catalog. It is interesting that Wolfram Alpha is written in 15 million lines of Mathematica. The company is launching a pro version of Wolfram Alpha tomorrow with the new ability to work with data and images. According to the Times which saw a demonstration:

Dr. Wolfram dragged in a 3-D image and after a few seconds it rendered the image — a guitar — and reported the number of polygons (2,253), among other characteristics.

British-born computer scientist Stephen Wolfram leads Wolfram Research. The 52-year-old published his first physics paper at the age of 15, he earned his Ph.D. from Caltech five years later, and he won a MacArthur prize at the age of 22.

Wolfram Alpha officially launched on May 15, 2009 and became available to the public three days later. Shortly after Steve Jobs’ passed on Oct. 5, 2011, the scientist remembered how Apple’s cofounder during the NeXT days took a great interest in the development of Mathematica. Dr. Wolfram told Guardian that Jobs even suggested the name. He contended:

And just the day before Steve died came the announcement of the iPhone 4S, and Siri, which uses our Wolfram|Alpha knowledge engine. The timing was so tragic. But it was a quintessential Steve Jobs move. To realise that people just want direct access to knowledge on their phones, without all the extra steps that people would usually assume have to be there.


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