WolframAlpha launches API for developers

Wolfram Research, the firm behind the WolframAlpha online answer engine, announced the release of an API enabling developers to leverage the solution's capabilities to build computational knowledge applications for the web and mobile platforms. Released in May 2009, WolframAlpha answers factual queries by computing answers from a knowledge base of curated, structured data instead of providing a list of webpages or documents a la conventional semantic search engines--it is built on Wolfram's flagship product Mathematica, which encompasses computer algebra, symbolic and numerical computation, visualization and statistics capabilities.

"We've seen interest across a wide range of areas for which the developer community wants to use Wolfram|Alpha--researching cancer through computational biology, augmenting web and meta-web search with computed knowledge, enriching online journalism with interactive content, building artificial intelligence systems on our domain expertise, leveraging our data analysis for decision support, optimizing renewable-energy efficiency, and even determining the optimal temperature for draft beer based on the current weather conditions.," writes Wolfram Research technical development specialist Schoeller Porter on the firm's blog. "Clearly, a straightforward API that enables applications to access advanced computations based on trusted information and backed up by a supercomputer-class infrastructure invites developers to explore ideas that were not otherwise possible."

In related news, Wolfram issued a WolframAlpha application optimized for Apple's iPhone--the app, priced at a whopping $49.99, promises to replace virtually any kind of calculator or reference book, delivering expert-level answers to questions complete with dynamically-generated visualizations and tables. The app includes a native iPhone interface with a special notation keyboard, customized output, editable history and integration with maps and other services.

For more on the WolframAlpha API:
- read this blog entry

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