An App for Every Course, and More

January 12, 2011
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Stephen Wolfram
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Today we’re releasing the first three of a planned series of “course assistant” apps, built using Wolfram|Alpha technology.

Wolfram Algebra

The long-term goal is to have an assistant app for every major course, from elementary school to graduate school. And the good news is that Wolfram|Alpha has the breadth and depth of capabilities to make this possible—and not only in traditionally “computational” kinds of courses.

The concept of these apps is to make it as quick and easy as possible to access the particular capabilities of Wolfram|Alpha relevant for specific courses. Each app is organized according to the major curriculum units of a course. Then within each section of the app, there are parts that cover each of the particular types of problems relevant to that unit.

Wolfram Calculus

The really important thing, of course, is that Wolfram|Alpha can actually solve these problems. It’s not just giving a certain set of canned results; it’s actually computing the solution to whatever specific problem it’s asked.

And what’s more—in typical Wolfram|Alpha style—it doesn’t give a basic answer; it also generates all sorts of additional information that’s relevant for understanding the answer. And in math, for example, it’s often also able to show the steps that a person could follow if they wanted to work out the answer by hand.

In a sense the ultimate idea of our course assistant apps is to provide automated expert tutoring for anyone anywhere. They’re also a good way to “scope out” what’s involved in a course, and work out as many examples as one wants.

Wolfram Music Theory

For teachers, one of the interesting things is that the course assistant apps don’t just do elementary examples: they handle the real-world cases too. So it becomes possible to explore concepts in much more realistic settings.

The course assistant apps that we’re releasing today are a small sample of what’s to come.

Over the next few months, we’ll be rolling out all sorts of course assistant apps (and we’d be happy to get suggestions for courses to tackle early!). We’ll be covering courses not only in the sciences but also in the humanities and in many professional areas. In fact, as we’ve reviewed popular courses and trends in the material they cover, we’ve been quite amazed at how broadly relevant Wolfram|Alpha is.

And actually, course assistant apps are just one corner of our large-scale program of deploying Wolfram|Alpha in the most convenient way for every different kind of user and usage. We’ve been having a lot of fun recently taking the technology platform that is Wolfram|Alpha and figuring out all the ways it can be deployed in the modern computational world.

Some of it is fairly obvious, some surprising. But the depth and breadth of opportunities is incredible.

Today’s course assistant apps are the first new releases for Wolfram|Alpha in 2011. There are a lot of exciting things to come. Stay tuned!

44 Comments

This is awesome!

Posted by Andrew January 12, 2011 at 10:59 am Reply

Any Windows Phone 7 app in the near future?

Posted by Mackenzie Price January 12, 2011 at 11:02 am Reply

Ditto Mackenzie’s post for Android? It’s a great idea. It would be wonderful to see it cross platforms.

Posted by Ed January 12, 2011 at 11:12 am Reply

You guys just get better and better…always developing cool stuff! THANKS!

Posted by Bob Gotwals January 12, 2011 at 11:16 am Reply

I teach computational chemistry and computational medicinal chemistry….apps for both of those areas would be GREAT, but they would not be “best sellers” — maybe the comp chem one would be used by undergrads — MO theory kinds of tutorials….

Posted by Bob Gotwals January 12, 2011 at 11:18 am Reply

Hello! We are working on course assistant apps for Android, and we’re assessing other platforms. Thank you for sharing your ideas for apps. Keep them coming!

Posted by The Wolfram|Alpha Team January 12, 2011 at 11:27 am Reply

So are all these “apps” basically hidden in the Wolfram Alpha main app I purchased for $50 over a year ago, but never received a refund for like I was promised even though I completed all the required information to receive said refund?

PS. I’m not bitter, but if someone could answer the emails I’ve been sending over the past 15 months, that’d be great!

Posted by Noah January 12, 2011 at 11:38 am Reply

    Hi Noah,

    We looked into the status of your refund today and came up with a solution. Our team will email you directly with more information. Thank you for bringing this to our attention!

    Posted by The Wolfram|Alpha Team January 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm Reply

You can never get enough Electrical Engineering apps! There are tons of equations, filters, circuits, digital domain data, amplifier and control system design, power calculations, etc. A collection of W|A EE Apps would be a great way to reference all that material. I could go on and on about what kinds of information could be beneficial to have as you work through an EE degree and even as you continue out into the field…

Posted by Patrick January 12, 2011 at 12:10 pm Reply

Amazingly useful!

Posted by avi January 12, 2011 at 12:34 pm Reply

This is such a great tool! Cannot wait to use it to assist me in my advanced math classes. Keep it up WA!

Posted by Autumn January 12, 2011 at 1:38 pm Reply

Coomputer Science!

Posted by Jon January 12, 2011 at 1:50 pm Reply

Amazing again. it would have been so helpful when i was student. but still gr8.

Posted by damodar bashyal January 12, 2011 at 6:04 pm Reply

I will need to be connected to the internet, will I? So it is the same as the wolfram alpha app, isn’t it?

Posted by Paco January 12, 2011 at 7:33 pm Reply

    Hello Paco, Yes, you will need an internet connection to use the app. Thank you.

    Posted by The Wolfram|Alpha Team January 12, 2011 at 10:11 pm Reply

      Well, seeing as they do a specific set of tasks, these ‘study apps’ should be able to compute for themselves. Especially on the dual-core iPad 2, which has more power than most game-programmers will be able to use due to general inability to thread efficiently. But for computing large numbers and highly parallel operations, the threaded compute power should unleash itself. And as for the things that do need a lot of compute operations – yes, they can wait until you have internet. But I find that disappointing as not everyone has an iPhone, although I have a touch and it ought to be as good. But I understand that the real Wolfram|Alpha app needs to have an internet link as it has an infinite set of tasks to compute. Although whole the idea is brilliant, especially the specific course guides. In a few years Wolfram|Alpha will be massive especially with students. Keep it up! :)

      Posted by Nicholas Johnson June 4, 2011 at 8:44 am Reply

      Is there any chance an edition that doesn’t require internet would be possible? I have a wifi iPad2, so I don’t have access to the internet everywhere I go…

      Posted by Lucy June 23, 2011 at 5:22 pm Reply

I know it’s already said, but… Android! Android! Android! Please!

Posted by Jon January 12, 2011 at 10:48 pm Reply

Why there are no apps for Windows Mobile?
I don’t know how it is in USA, but in Russia most users of Apple products are not interested in science at all…

Posted by UndeRoll January 13, 2011 at 5:55 am Reply

    Yap, thats right. Im not Russia (im Slovakia), but here are many Windows Mobile Phones. So i only ask: will be here application for Windows???!

    Posted by valdo January 26, 2011 at 12:22 pm Reply

1. How are people new to W|A to become aware of ‘Course assistants? Even above it is not easy to note that ‘Course assistants’ provides a link to them.

On the home page there are already 11 links and 4 icons.
I suggest these be replaced by a single dropdown list. One of that list would be ‘Resources and Tools’. This would lead to a further dropdown list including ‘Course Assistants’.

2. I suggest the following as the basis for new Course Assistants:-
Reading and writing:-
http://www.catphonics.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/
http://www.phonics4free.org/

Tutorials:-

http://www.bgls11958.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/tutorials/index.htm

Posted by Brian Gilbert January 13, 2011 at 5:56 am Reply

There are a large number of nursing and lab “calculators” that are adaptable to an app format.

Our web based tools total about 75 “calculators”, the medical term for formulas with an interface, and this could be broken up into subcatagories of Nursing/Bedside, Laboratory and Dental to make the selections more focused. Given that physicians like their own branded apps, that makes four medical apps that would have a market in the millions.

You might even investigate medical equipment implimentations and interfaces.

Posted by Dan Chandler January 13, 2011 at 11:19 am Reply

wow… when wolfram.alpha can teach folks how to play chess that will be awesome…

Posted by Dan Ellwein January 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm Reply

Finally –very smart apps!!!!!

Posted by Kenneth January 13, 2011 at 6:20 pm Reply

How about an interface for IBM’s Watson computer that analyzes and answers highly ambiguous questions, http://www.ibm.com/deepqa ? It would probably be an advance for both IBM and Wolfram Research.

Posted by NeoPhyte_Rep January 13, 2011 at 8:50 pm Reply

These items are chargeable $2/3 , even if it is trivial to most people. Rather than let it come as a surprise I suggest it is mentioned earler on the blog.

Posted by brian Gilbert January 15, 2011 at 3:43 am Reply

Having read this a few times I have only just noticed that the Course Assistants are only available for Iphone,ipod touch, and iPad.
Can they not be used with a PC?
Brian Gilbert, Volunteer Curator

Posted by Brian Gilbert January 15, 2011 at 6:16 am Reply

What we need is MATHEMATICA 8 for the IPAD !

Posted by Roberto Roy January 16, 2011 at 12:07 am Reply

    Surely the iPad can browse the web so if you have a licence tou should be able to access Mathematica 8?.

    Posted by Brian Gilbert January 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm Reply

Thank you!

Posted by Tanya January 16, 2011 at 2:16 pm Reply

Sounds amazing! I would love to buy it, but I have an android. Are there plans for an android release soon?

Posted by Jason January 18, 2011 at 9:27 pm Reply

    Hi Jason, We are working on an Android version. Once it’s available, we will be sure to let you know here on the blog! Thank you!

    Posted by The Wolfram|Alpha Team January 19, 2011 at 4:58 pm Reply

I just had a question… If the WolframAlpha app can solve equations like the Wolfram Algebra/Calculus/Music Theory, why do we need to get them?

I am just curious, since I am a poor/starving art student lol. If I were to just get WolframAlpha, wouldn’t it be able to do what all 3 individual apps could do and more?

Posted by Morgan January 23, 2011 at 6:34 pm Reply

Would be great, if you can translate the GUI into German. The topic itself is difficult enough, so there should not be an extra hurdle language like.

For elementary Schools there are apps available in German but not for higher Maths, like Algebra etc.

At least not in such a quality…

Posted by Peter February 1, 2011 at 4:52 am Reply

Release these for android! I feel so left out :[

Posted by Jim March 16, 2011 at 1:18 am Reply

    Hi Jim, We are working on apps for Android. We’re looking forward to sharing them with you soon!

    Posted by The Wolfram|Alpha Team March 17, 2011 at 11:49 am Reply

Any chance for a Blackberry app? I don’t know which phone to get and this app, being so useful, might make my decision.

Posted by Luke May 4, 2011 at 4:31 am Reply

    Hi Luke,

    We are assessing additional platforms for the apps. At this time the Wolfram|Alpha App is available for Android, the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. The Wolfram Course Assistant Apps are available for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

    Thank you!

    Posted by The Wolfram|Alpha Team May 4, 2011 at 10:54 pm Reply

When will The Wolfram Course Assistant Apps are available for Android?? I am not a fan of iPhone or iwhatsoever. Is Alpha supported by Steve Jobs???

I am an educator at University level and our technical adviser gave me the following feedback to your product: It’s a pity they are only available for the iphone and ipad as less than 30% of students have these. I hope Wolfram bring out a cross platform version soon.

Posted by Catherine June 19, 2011 at 7:40 pm Reply

It would be really great if you make an app for windows phone. Seeing as bing uses wolfram, it would make a great accessory if the app was made for windows phones.

Posted by levon October 5, 2011 at 7:03 pm Reply

I would like to further emphasize the importance of these course assistant apps for android. Additionally, I think there should be apps for different branches of engineering and also classes thst each type of engineer might have to take. This would be really useful

Posted by Josh November 29, 2011 at 9:25 pm Reply

Patrick is Definitely right Im an EE and CE engineering major and engineering app for ANDROID would be great. One that allows you to choose your course branch of engineering then you would be able to take it from there. But for real we really need all the same apps that iphone and ipad gets but for ANDROID.

Posted by Josh December 1, 2011 at 4:47 am Reply

I’m currently taking an MEng in Aeronautical Engineering so will find the Mechanics of Materials app very useful – only thing is I’m hesitant to spend $4.99 on an app which may not cover everything I want it to. I think the price should be lowered to $1.99 each at the max, or at the very least offer some sort of trial/lite version so we can see what we are buying!

Some other course suggestions: Aerodynamics, Thermodynamics, Mechanics

Posted by Keir January 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm Reply
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