Instopix – Visualising chat as you type

Instopix (Instant Messenger Topic Pictures) is a program, currently only for MSN users, that shows related pictures for their conversations. It’s an early alpha by 21-year-old Luke Stanley who has spun it out of his startup ThoughtTrail. What Instopix does is pretty cool.

While you are having an IM conversation with a fiend on MSN Messenger, if your contact talks about something like a film, the Instopix plugin will bring up information about the film with links, even video. Here’s a demo.

The program is a part of a viral strategy for ThoughtTrail, a Semantic Desktop and Semantic Web platform. ThoughtTrail is a reusable libary with functions like the ability to quickly do phrase-finding and web searches, achieved with a plugin. The main code is cross-platform, Python coded.

So, Stanley – who calls his project a “flirtation with Visual Language” – thinks he could have a shot at Mike Arrington’s email problem, such as a creating a Firefox plugin to get all his unread Gmail messages and import them to ThoughtTrail to provide visual cues, summarisation and cross-referencing to see if he already knows an emailer on Facebook or LinkedIn. I don’t know if it would work, but it sounds plausible enough.

The next version of Instopix (not yet released), has microblogging straight from conversations: as in, tell a friend something, then “send to blog”.