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Qwiki – The Information Experience

How many of us have come across an interesting subject or are researching, looking for a short quick introduction to the topic but have found lots and lots of technical or detailed information? Sure Wikipedia helps but that is only text. Most of the time, related images or videos need to be searched for separately. Now there is a way to look up information in a very well presented manner along with images and videos, Qwiki.

A lot of us prefer a brief explanation or description of a topic, expecting something similar to a teacher’s response to our query. Qwiki aims to deliver exactly that. And my first impressions of it are extremely positive.

Qwiki is simple to use with a standardised search box at the top and a data presenter underneath. Just like Wikipedia or Google or any other search engine, users can simple type in the reference term of their interest and a list of close and exact matches is shown. Selecting a topic presents you with a short “video” with the most important and relevant information. Usually this video (presentation) is under a minute long. This presentation is accompanied by an audio description. Currently the audio description is a standard text-to-speech style voice, although I have hopes of it improving as the technology matures.

The data they claim is small (2 million terms) yet it has topics ranging from cities to music to current affairs to physics, engineering and history. Being the geek that I am, my first search was “BJT”, the Bipolar Junction Transistor, which returned very good description of the component and in the related topics even presented some detailed explanation of how it works. I say detailed but it was again about 40seconds of information describing the basics of it. Another random search was done on the Higgs Boson particle. It presented a quick history and that the search is going on at CERN. It had related information on W & Z Bosons.

This was like one of my childhood fantasies from Star Trek where the captain speaks to the computer asking “Computer, what is a BJT?” and the computer responding with a brief description. This is an exciting technology.

Qwiki presents various visual media for reference dependant upon the reference term. For a location search, it presents a map in its presentation which is clickable and the user is able to explore it. For maps Qwiki uses embedded Google Maps and for videos related to the term, it presents YouTube videos. The presentation of these various media is cleverly packaged in its presentation. It will show a map or a video (video usually playing muted with commentary) and the user can just click it while the presentation is playing and the video or the map will replace the presentation. Simply closing the media returns you to the presentation. At the end of the presentation, apart from showing related topics, it presents links to Wikipedia, Google, fotopedia and YouTube.

This new manner of data presentation is efficient but imagine this on a mobile device like you smartphone. A smartphone is already able to access the web, Qwiki on a smartphone would, in my opinion, revolutionise data lookup. Combine this with voice recognition technology present in most if not all smartphones, Qwiki will be a create storm in the search space on mobile platforms. The team at Qwiki have promised a mobile version, I eagerly await it.

Although the creators say that this is an alpha release, there is a lot of content and so far it has performed without a hitch for me. Now since this is an early release technology, some of you *may* expect some hiccups in performance or may not find the subject of your interest but bear with it. It is developing fast and improving, expect it to get even better.

Source: Qwiki

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