I guess these things have been around for a few years, but I never noticed them before. If you haven't either, go take a peek at https://www.nabaztag.com/en/index.html and come back here later..we'll wait.
So, what did you think? Cute? Useful? Yeah, me too. Wikipedia misses the point on this entirely.. they say:
Nabaztag is a "smart object" comparable to those manufactured by Ambient Devices
Nope. This is much more than that. "Smart objects" are great, but smart objects with personality are something much more (apparently I'm not the only one to think so).
If these were $40 or so, I'd buy one for every member of my family, program them appropriately, and ship them out as gifts. What a wonderful way to communicate! I would have put one in my mother's nursing home room (assuming there was wireless available) while she was still alive. I'd give one to my aging aunt, to my sister, to a friend in New Zealand.. but at just shy of $200.00 that would get a bit expensive..
Still, what a great geek toy. There isn't much to this - a wireless receiver, an RFID reader, microphone, a sound generator, a couple of motors and a bit of ram.. yes, it's a robot, and there's a programming API (see the sidebar links at their blog). But it will be through things like this that robotics and AI enters Joe Average's home.
Sure, we all know that it's just the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain: your computer or some else's is what is really providing the power here. Stick some ears on your PC or build something like it yourself and you can do everything this does and more. But that's missing the point: this is cute. You could stick it in a nursing home or anywhere where a computer wouldn't be as appreciated. It's non-threatening, but still very useful. And it is far more interesting than the specific purpose devices that companies like Ambient are trying to sell.
Not that specific purpose "smart objects" are bad. I'd like to have a smart power meter like Ambient sells - I'll pass on the "smart" umbrella though..
To really catch on, this type of thing needs to be less expensive and needs to be untethered from a power cord. Batteries probably won't cut it (not at their present capabilities anyway) - maybe wireless power or a breakthrough in solar? But the cost is probably the most important.
I've seen the future. It's a rabbit.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Anthony Lawrence
I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel that they have not said enough. (Mark Twain)