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Cooliris turns Wikipedia into an iPad magazine

Cooliris, the makers of the neat photo wall extension, has a new application for iPad owners that turns Wikipedia into something more closely resembling a magazine you can simply flip through.

Cooliris Discover logo

The first thing that should come to mind when you think of Cooliris is photos. The company is well known for its imaging products, which include a very snazzy cross-platform browser add-on, an iPhone app, and embedded Web site and mobile phone technology. All of these are able to turn a collection of photos into an interactive, 3D wall, be it in on your browser, Web site, or cell phone.

But with its latest creation for Apple's iPad, called Discover, Cooliris is moving beyond the presentation and organization of photos and into something a little more pedestrian: text.

Discover, which was submitted to Apple on Tuesday, takes content from Wikipedia--both text and still images (but mostly just text), and splits it up into sections. These can be flipped through with your finger, instead of scrolling down a large page in Safari. The app also keeps track of where you've been so you can retrace your reading path if you've gone several pages deep.

"When the iPad came out, we took an idea we had, and said 'this is probably a perfect platform to try it on,'" Cooliris' executive VP of products Michele Turner told CNET. "This new application takes structured data--in this case Wikipedia, as the starting point. We've then created a templatized starting page and structured data from Wikipedia to let users navigate the depths of Wikipedia in a beautiful and efficient way."

The end result is a Wikipedia with larger text that can be read like an e-book, and photos that can be thumbed through and scaled up to the iPad's full resolution. The app also takes advantage of orientation to reposition, or expand or consolidate the data it's showing. Along the way, Cooliris serves up advertisements, which is where it can make some of its money given the app's free price tag.

Discovery by Cooliris
On the left is a Wikipedia page on cricketer Douglas Jardine as viewed in Safari on the iPad. On the right is the same page in one of Discover's templates. Users can flip through this like a book, instead of scrolling down a long page. Screenshots by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

But why Wikipedia, and not a larger chunk of the Internet, as something like the recently popular Flipboard has done with RSS feeds? The short answer is that it's not there yet, but it will be soon. Turner and company do, in fact, envision Discover as a platform for various data feeds from around the Web. "We have over 100 content partners in the mainstream Cooliris product," Turner said. "The longer term opportunity is to work with the content partners to flow into this application, but that's kind of down the line."

Eventually the company plans to bring it to other platforms, including Android tablets. In making the iPad iteration of Discover, the company even built one for the iPhone, though Turner says it didn't feel quite right given the smaller form factor.

More pics of Discover can be seen after the break.

Discover by Cooliris
The first time you start Discover, it tells you how to use its four direction gesture interface. Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET
The expanded view
While reading an article in landscape mode, Discover shows you related Wikipedia articles. Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET
Search interface
Discover users can search Wikipedia right from the app. It includes the top result, and related articles. Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET
Looking up definitions in Discover
If you don't know what a word is, or want to see another linked Wikipedia article, Discover lets you hold your finger of it to look it up. Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET