Alright, geeks--this week's feature Chrome extension is calling out your name. While most net-savvy individuals can always surf on over to Google to run most any calculations they need to run (quick: 12 cups is how much of a gallon!), there's an easier way to go about solving the answers to life's tougher mathematical issues. In fact, you can do it straight from your Chrome browser without having to surf on over to a secondary page.
The genius behind this functionality is a little extension called Chromey Calculator. Don't let the cute alliteration fool you--this little wonder is akin to packing Einstein's brain into a tiny little button next to your address bar. Clicking on said button pulls up a little pop-up window with a simple, console-style prompt. Type in a common equation you need solved (1+1), and the extension will spit out an answer in a running field that keeps track of the last few commands you've entered. Not only does this beat the one-equation, one-answer style of Windows' default calculator program, but Chromey Calculator also taps into the power of the Web to fuel more complex commands.
Click the jump to get the gritty, super-user details!
On Wednesday, Google officially unveiled its newest lab project called Google Squared, which attempts to organize search results into a spreadsheet style layout.Although it might appear at first glance that this is a Wolfram Alpha competitor, Google is quick to defend the original aspects of the service. Unlike Wolfram Alpha, Google isn’t actually performing any calculations, and they will simply continue to do what they do best, present information that has been cached from the web. The idea behind squared is to help organize your search results so that you get all of the relevant information you’re looking for in one shot. It is hoped that this will minimize the amount of times users will need to refine their original search terms in order to get the results they are looking for.
The system isn’t quite perfect however, and ARS Technica was able to achieve some pretty humorous results by searching for the term “NYC population”. While reviewing the results, I noticed that Google populated a column named “status”, and listed Queens as “hospitalized”. Another column is titled “white” and the associated image is a heard of deer wandering around an army base. That’s not to say the system is totally broken however, and when it works, it works extremely well. A quick search for the term “Palm Pre” for example, turned up categories such as memory, weight, dimensions, display, etc. They clearly have some work to do on making the columns more relevant, but it certainly is an encouraging start.
How hard is it to take on Google in the search business? Just ask Cuil, the little search engine that couldn't, which was developed by a handful of ex-Google employees. Or chat it up with Microsoft, who tried like Hades to acquire Yahoo for its search business, with or without Yahoo's consent. But whatever you do, don't tell Stephen Wolfram that it can't be done.
Wofram, who received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Caltech in 1979 when he was only 20 years old, plans to unveil a project he calls Wolfram Alpha. Just as the name does not imply, Wolfram Alpha combines his work with Mathematica and NKS (A New Kind of Science) to the voodoo of online search.
"All one needs to be able to do is to take questions people ask in natural language, and represent them in a precise form that fits into the computations one can do," Wolfram said in a recent blog post. "I'm happy to say that with a mixture of many clever algorithms and heuristics, lots of linguistic discovery and linguistic curation, and what probably amount to some serious theoretical breakthroughs, we're actually managing to make it work."
At least one other person is convinced Wolfram Alpha has a bright future. Nova Spivack, CEO of Radar Networks, says it could be as important to the web as Google, albeit for a different purpose. Spivack viewed a demo of Wolfram Alpha in action and says that the search engine doesn't just parse natural language to retrieve documents, but "actually computes the answers to a wide range of questions."
Whether or not Wolfram Alpha can live up to its billing as a "computational knowledge engine" remains to be seen, and as of right now, we'll get to see in May when the project goes live.