Qwiki, the information experience platform whose first product will be a web-based reference tool with about 3 million terms, is moving to the next level with funding from some high profile investors.
It announced Friday that it had received $8 million from various investors including Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and YouTube co-founder Jawed-Karim as well as several venture capital firms. Its first product - which users are being invited to test - is set to launch soon, according to the company's website.
After winning a new technology competition and showcase for the public and investors in September, CEO Doug Imbruce says the investments will take Qwiki to the next level.
The tool - whose back end includes contributions from Internet search pioneer and Qwiki co-founder Louis Monier- presents information to users in narrative form using web-based text, videos, and photos.
The tool creates a short presentation where a somewhat natural-sounding computerized female voice reads information from the Web - such as a few paragraphs from a Wikipedia entry - and overlays it with photos and videos referring to the term.
In a presentation in September, at a technology conference where various young companies were competing not only for a prize, but also the attention of venture capitalists - Imbruce outlined three points to consider for the product.
1. This experience was not generated by humans. It was generated by machines.
2. This experience is completely curated.
3. The experience is completely interactive
Our mission is not to replace Google searches but, instead, to introduce a curated information experience: an alternative to forcing people to wander through the wilds of the open Web, Imbruce wrote in a published column a few weeks after winning.
One judge at the Tech Crunch Disrupt competition - a former CEO who works at a venture capital firm - praised the technology, but suggested to Imbruce that the team should work more on its front end presentation and more possible uses for the technology.
She noted that Imbruce gave one example of the technology in action where an alarm on an iPhone tells a user the time, the date, the day's weather and goes through the users' appointments.
The Qwiki team should make clear how the technology could be differentiated from what exists today, other than search with a voice.
I think you guys do have the potential to get there, said the judge, Gianna Bianchini of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
Thank you. But don't call Qwiki 'search with a voice.' It's a much bigger idea than that. It's an enabling technology for the future of information, said Imbruce.
Great. Duly noted, she replied.
Others on the panel said Qwiki made them think of web-based language product Rosetta Stone, saying it could have uses for an international audiences looking to learn a foreign language from spoken, rather than written text.
Louis interjected, to make a point about users looking at Qwiki.
Every person we've shown this to has come up with a new use case and you just did. Thank you, he said.
This is a platform. We're going to do many products based off this, Louis said.