smartfmAt first glance, a new Facebook application called Brain Speed seems like a fun way to test your knowledge of your friends — entertaining, but not much to it. However, the Japanese company behind the app, says Brain Speed is just a demonstration of how its technology can process structured data, and that it’s building more powerful learning tools using the same technology.

Brain Speed pulls in data from your friends’ user profiles, then automatically generates multiple choice questions around that information: What are their favorite movies? Where do they live? What was their most recent status message? If you answer the most questions correctly for a certain friend, then you “own” them — for example, I might try to compete with other VentureBeat writers to see who “owns” our boss, Matt Marshall, by getting the most questions right about him.

What says it really wants to do here is demonstrate the way it can take structured data, in this case your friends’ profiles, and process it in a way that creates questions that make sense — so it understands how to formulate a movie-related question versus a status-related question. The company is building another app that tests knowledge from the Freebase database. Looking further ahead, says it wants to be the site where you can learn “anything and everything.” That’s a tall order, but at least one that seems possible if some of the learning activities can be generated automatically from databases, rather than written manually. first launched under the name iKnow! at the DEMOfall conference last year, pitching itself as social platform for learning different languages. It now claims to have more than 500,000 users, and starting in October it plans to make a big push in the United States. Parent company Cerego has raised about $20 million. Facebook Application — Demo from Josh Dilworth on Vimeo.

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