Ever wished you had a copy of Wikipedia in your pocket? To be fair, as long as you have a reasonably recent phone, a data connection and a few minutes you can pull up the mobile version of the online encyclopaedia, but if you're more interested in an offline version then the WikiReader might appeal. The palm-sized gadget has a monochrome touchscreen and a text-only backup of Wikipedia's articles stored on a microSD card.
Controls are straightforward, with power, search, history and random hardware buttons and everything else - such as text-entry - handled by the touchscreen. Since the display is pretty basic, the two AAA batteries should last around a year, and it's reasonably child-friendly thanks to the scratch-resistant tempered glass screen cover.
That microSD card also holds the OS - the work of Openmoko, apparently - and WikiReader's creators are hoping that it'll encourage open-source tinkerers to hack the device into doing other things. Updates to Wikipedia can either be loaded yourself, or for a $30 annual subscription they'll send you four new cards a year.
DVICE have been playing with the WikiReader, and aside from wishing for a backlit display they're pretty impressed. Picture support would be another improvement, but we mostly did without pictures in old-fashioned encyclopaedias so there's no reason we shouldn't force the kids of today to do the same. The WikiReader is on sale now, priced at $99.
TAIPEI, TAIWAN - October 13, 2009 - Openmoko announced today the availability of WikiReader, a palm-sized electronic encyclopedia containing the more than three million English language articles of Wikipedia that can be accessed immediately anytime, anywhere without requiring an Internet connection. WikiReader is available for $99 at http://thewikireader.com and Amazon.com starting today.
WikiReader turns on instantly, and works for months before replacement of its two AAA batteries is necessary. The large monochrome screen uses a touch interface. Articles are scrolled with a stroke of the finger and hyperlinks selected with a simple tap. Three buttons, Search, History and Random, offer the convenience of reading specific topics or the serendipitous pleasure of discovering something by chance within Wikipedia's rich array of articles ranging from Freud to Final Fantasy. Updates for the WikiReader are provided quarterly and available for free download via their website. A yearly subscription plan for updated microSD cards is also available for $29.
For more than eight years, people from all corners of the world have contributed knowledge inWikiReader can be used anywhere anytime the form of articles, translations, and source codes, collectively building Wikipedia, the largest reference resource that humankind has ever seen. WikiReader extends this spirit of collaboration, representing the combined vision of a designer, device manufacturer, significant grass roots research, and input from parents to preteens to pedagogues about the ways people want to access information throughout their days.
"We created the WikiReader to be fun, easy, informative and entertaining for all ages," said Openmoko CEO, Sean Moss-Pultz. "WikiReader is a whimsical look at the joy of learning in the digital age. It's personal and it's fun. We're extremely excited about sharing our device with the world."
WikiReader was designed by Thomas Meyerhoffer, the former Apple designer known for reshaping surf culture with his radically different surfboards: "The key is keeping it simple. We really want the focus to be on the experience of reading Wikipedia, not browsing the Web. That's why we only have three buttons. There really is no interface. You're just straight into the content."
WikiReader puts Wikipedia in your pocketMeyerhoffer, continues, "Because it's offline and offers parental controls, the whole experience happens within the device. That's especially great when it comes to kids. I can give this to my nine-year-old, and I know he's only going to get content that is fine for him to read."
Erik Moeller, Deputy Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said, "We've played with WikiReader, and it's a lot of fun to see the entirety of the English Wikipedia text in a self-contained little box that doesn't require Internet access. It could also be one viable approach to share the world's most comprehensive encyclopedia with people who aren't connected. We will watch the continuing development of this device with great interest, as it's fully in the spirit of what Wikipedia is all about: empowering people."
For more information on WikiReader, please visit http://thewikireader.com.
Images and video are available for download at: http://thewikireader.com/media.html.
Openmoko, Inc. combines creative and technical people to create original forms in the field of consumer products. Privately funded and based in Taipei, Taiwan, Openmoko built the world's first open source mobile phone, giving birth to an active community that contributes to the world of open source mobile technologies. For more information, please visit http://openmoko.com