Qwiki: Wikipedia and Multimedia

Last week, I happened across Qwiki – a kind of audio-visual variant of Wikipedia. It seems to pull data from Wikipedia, but combines it with audio and related multimedia (both images and video). The whole thing is packaged up into a pretty nice presentation style, complete with a timeline that you can pause and replay, as you wish.

WhatI can’t tell is how they’re pulling off the audio. I haven’t dug very deeply into things, but the online version is Flash-based. I don’t know if all the audio is pre-recorded and then streamed, or if it’s fancier than that… if the audio is spliced together, on the fly. It’s a little choppy in that you can tell it’s automated, but if it’s dynamic – it sounds pretty impressive.

I’m also a fan of the built-in visualizations. There are zoom-in maps and populations stats for locations (try Indianapolis), and there are also birth/death stats for people (Albert Einstein).

Of course, a lot of fun comes when trying to see what Qwiki does and doesn’t catalog. You won’t find everything on Wikipedia here (sadly, I couldn’t get Qwiki to display a list of (unusual deaths). But there’s a surprising amount of stuff.

I had fun searching around, seeing what existed in the Qwiki catalog. Listening to the computerized voice describe Tom Waits was actually pretty entertaining.

The site is still in Alpha, and they’re slowly amassing a library of information. Should be interesting to see where they are in another 6 months…

As a side note, I think Qwiki is an easier name to remember/spell than, say, Qwikster.

// Edit: I actually tried spelling it twice, before I had to go look it up. Got it wrong both times. Gah!

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