It could be me since I’m heavily medicated right now, or MSNBC wants to turn your boring old RSS newsreader in to a hallucinogenic drug.

The online news portal recently launched their new flash-based “visual newsreader”, Spectra, and is one of the most interesting and fun ways to communicate information I’ve seen in a long time. It presents headlines by either spinning them off of a colorful 3D spiral, or spawning them from the dominant colors in front of your webcam.

Now, I’m not a big advocate on using Flash for Flash sake, (meaning using the tool as nothing more than to gloss up a site) but MSNBC did a commendable job on Spectra’s very attractive and slick looking interface. There are nice graphical touches to convey user interaction with the newsreader such as when you filter the headlines, the ones that are not relevant sunk off the bottom of the screen, and then float back into view when you remove the filter.

This is not the first time MSNBC tried to have a fresh take on news consumption. Their last attempt with Fuel Industries was a game that plays out similar to Breakout and it arranges the falling headlines revealed from breaking bricks along the right side of the screen so you can read the headlines after your last life is lost or you pause the game.

Spectra also reminds me a little of the Google newsmap, by Marcos Weskamp and Dan Albritton, released several years ago. It’s not as pretty as Spectra, but I find it more useful due to the fact it prioritises news stories based on how popular they are on the Google news search. The results are then displayed in similarly colour coded categories, and scaled based on its chronological importance meanwhile fitting perfectly within the screen.

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