Wikipedia has launched its first location-based feature for mobile readers, Wikipedia Nearby, which pulls up articles related to your current position. Described as the learning equivalent of services like Yelp, which show nearby coffee shops and entertainment, Wikipedia Nearby sifts through historic sites, parks, museums, and other points of interest, and also allows the reader to add to them while on the move.
Integration with the mobile device’s camera means Wikipedia Nearby users can snap a shot of the location and add that to the record, helping the open encyclopedia to add to its collection of imagery. Uploads are automatically classified with a free use license.
Wikipedia Nearby also works on the regular, desktop version of the site, though it might be less useful that way than on your phone. However, the Wikipedia Foundation believes that it could be a good first step to encouraging new editors, prompting them with a familiar topic that they could enhance with local knowledge.
“Along with the goal of bringing awareness of the surrounding areas to our existing readers, we hope that this simple tool can attract new editors to these articles, whether it is to update the information on the exhibits in a local museum, or simply to add a photo of a nearby park that is in severe need of a properly licensed lead image” Wikipedia Foundation
The new feature builds on existing location data that was already being added to Wikipedia’s many entries, though which until now had gone unused by any specific services. That includes theaters, religious buildings, points of natural beauty, and even famous or notorious restaurants and cafes.
Of course, something like Wikipedia Nearby will be even more useful when wearables like Google Glass grow in prevalence, augmented the real-world view of the wearer’s surroundings with snippets of historical and contextual data. So far, location-based services have focused more on transactions and entertainment, but there’s a huge space for more educational information to be added in.