Aardvark is a neat new service that lives in your IM client and which routes any question you might have to an Aardvark user who has the right expertise to answer your query. In return, Aardvark will also send you a few questions every day that fit your profile. You then decide to either answer the question or refer it to another friend. Of course, you can also always pass if you don't know the answer.

Aardvark will come out of its private beta during SXSW, but we have a few invites for you if you want to try it out now.

Aardvark was developed by The Mechanical Zoo, a San Francisco-based company that raised $5.25 million from August Capital and Baseline Ventures last October.

When you sign up with Aardvark, you simply add some basic information about your location, the topics you want to answer questions about, and your preferred IM client. Aardvark supports Google Talk, AIM, and Microsoft's Live Messenger. After this, Aardvark will live in your IM client and you simply ask it whatever question you might have in plain English.

Aardvark analyzes your questions, determines what they are about, and then passes them on to the people in your Aardvark network - or, if nobody in your direct network fits the bill, it will pass it on to the rest of the Aardvark community.

Q&A

In our tests, this worked surprisingly well. We did, for example, ask Aardvark about what parties to go to at SXSW and received an answer within a few minutes. When we asked for local clothing stores in Portland, OR, a good answer came in even faster. We even got some good book recommendations through Aardvark.

Aardvark features a number of simple commands that allow you to interact with the service and that are always explained in your conversations with Aardvark. When you get an answer, for example, you can simply type 'thanks' to send a thank-you note, or, whenever you feel like answering questions, just type in 'try' and Aardvark will look for a question that fits your expertise.

Better Than Twitter?

In our internal tests, we realized that a lot of the answers often rivaled those we received when asking our Twitter network. Thanks to the fact that Aardvark automatically routed our questions to people with the right expertise, all the answers we received so far were top-notch. In case you didn't like the answer (or if it was obscene), you can flag it and rate it on the service's website.

Overall, we think this is a great service and it is definitely one of the coolest products in this space that we have tested in the last couple of months.

Invites

Aardvark is scheduled to launch during SXSW, but we will send out an invite to the first 25 commenters on this post. Note: if you use your Facebook Connect or OpenID credentials to comment here, we won't see your email address!