Wolfram Alpha is the Swiss Army knife of cool futuristic tech. It does everything: it powers Siri, compares sports statistics of all kinds, and analyzes prescription interactions, all while being a pretty beastly scientific tool. Starting today, you can ask it where the nearest pizza place is. Yes, Wolfram Alpha is entering local search:
Wolfram|Alpha now knows the locations of some 2.4 million retail establishments for 1,300 major chains in 220 different categories-gas stations, restaurants, department stores, and much more. It also knows the typical business hours for roughly one third of those locations, which makes queries like that one possible.
It's important to note that right now we only have information on retail chains, so independent retailers or restaurants won't show up for your queries. And this first dataset is heavily weighted toward the United States and US-based chains. But we'll be adding more locations of all types and beefing up our international coverage in the near future.
For the moment, that still means that you can ask Wolfram|Alpha to find places like: the nearest Walgreens the Avis nearest to the Golden Gate Bridge a Starbucks open at 10pm in Pittsburgh or even the Chipotle nearest to Grand Central Station open at 9pm
Frankly, it doesn't work well just yet—Siri, it's not. Wolfram Alpha requires specific syntax to effectively parse a query and its database is currently populated almost exclusively with chains. So, for finding cheap eats or hidden gems, you'd be better off with Yelp.
However it's a good indication of where the Wolfram Alpha service is headed—location-aware and providing information from a large database of establishments. That means that they'll have to step up and compete with Google as well as a host of other search service heavyweights. And that's great—as long as Wolfram Alpha doesn't compile enough information to go all Skynet on us.