Analytical Engine Wolfram Alpha is now offering designers, developers and web users widgets which will offer computation results on their websites and blogs. As well as using existing widgets, users can also build their own widgets from scratch. If you haven’t used Wolfram Alpha before, it looks very much like other search engines but the difference is, it answers factual queries directly by computing the answer from structured data, rather than providing a list of documents or web pages. It uses Mathematica and a huge dataset to compile answers and graphics to queries. An example of a query would be something like “10 nearest stars” or “where was Barack Obama born”.
The widgets are mini applications built on top of Wolfram Alpha queries. The widget builder lets users design and display interactive widgets on websites and share them on Twitter, email and Facebook. The builder itself is fairly straightforward to use and features a drag and drop interface to create a query, design a form and choose colors and layout. As a simple example, I created a widget to calculate the distance from Dublin to any other place. When you create your query, you can define which parts of that query will be a variable, so my original query was “Distance from Dublin to Belfast” and I made Belfast a variable. You don’t have to worry about writing any code, the builder does all that for you.
You can choose what sort of information is output from your widget and how it will be displayed when a user presses the Submit button.
For my simple widget, the result on Submit looks like this:
The widgets look clean and uncluttered. Here’s two examples of some of the many existing widgets which you can use as they are or they can be adapted for your own needs.
After filling in some data, you click Submit and a pop-up box appears with your answer. As you can see below, the answers are factual and include charts and tables.
The terms and conditions of use state that the widgets are for personal use only and not for websites with a commercial focus, but this is a great development for website owners to add extra interactivity and useful information to their sites.