Are you one of those guys who never shut down their computer? Great! What you need for your ultimate geeky happiness then is a wi-fi connected toy to keep up with the online world from home. Let aside game consoles and mobile devices you probably have already. Play around with these cute little gadgets you can use autonomously to the PC – but in a more… silly way. Last year showed us that home entertainment doesn`t fall short in terms of ‘Web 2.0′ or even ’3.0′ (whatever terminology you want to choose right now). Let there be bunny shaped wi-fi cyber toys reading out your friend’s “I will be late!” email while you are in the kitchen. Let a wooden TFT picture frame display your choice of Flickr photo sets via wi-fi. Brush up your living room interior with a glowing ball that changes it’s colour according to the weather forecast or let a smart little potato with a monitor show you the moon phases. Do we actually need this at all? Yes, for sure! Staying connected globally should be fun.
Written by Verena
mum and dad Nabaztag, the blinking robotic family.
The Nabaztag is a talking rabbit that seems to take the geek community by storm. It‘s undoubtedly the the most advanced wi-fi companion for you, if you really want to consider yourself part of the ‘web 2.0′ generation. This 9-inch toy can receive text messages, e-mails and any kind of RSS-feeds. Instead of a display it reads out any message in a synthetic voice or plays any audio content your friends emailed to the little bunny. And – this is the speciality – it shows ‘mood messages‘: three luminescent points on Nabaztag’s belly change according to the data feed. The same goes for the position of the long ears that rotate accordingly.
The rabbits communicate even with each other: Change the ear of your toy and your friend`s Nabaztag ears will rotate to the same position. Isn‘t that cute? Moreover the new version Nabaztag/tag just came out a few weeks ago and has a microphone installed for sending direct voice messages to one another. And it can smell with its belly button. Excuse me? Weird techy world…
Chumby is a cute little round shaped wi-fi device with a display for all sorts of ‘social interaction’, as tech speak likes to put it. Though it looks like a cushioned potato with a display the size of an alarm-clock, this is the clue: not only its outside soft surface is mouldable to your wishes but also its “intestines” (in terms of software) are completely open source. An invitation for hackers that gather in an expanding online community.
How convenient that it can display any RSS-feeded output! But even better that the toy serves as a receiver for Flickr photos as well as an mp3player. (So take your chumby-cushion to the breakfast table and enjoy your favorite podcasts together with your cerial!) Basically, it can simply display anything for you, let’s say – the moon phases! Also emails or text messages can be transmitted and that way it can serve as your ‘emotional transfer’ from friends.
Even if you don‘t really know how to program it, you can modify this open source gadget quite easily. Just download one of those tiny add-ons and widgets – and there you go!
3. Ambient Orb
Via wi-fi it receives the traffic news or the weather forecast and then adjusts its colour to it.
The intelligent glowing ball called Ambient Orb is one of the veterans of the wireless home interior generation. Stick to this warm and cozy decor until the same company will soon hand out an umbrella which handle receives the weather forecast via wireless transmission and then glows to alert you.
The Ambient Orb doesn’t protect you from rain but rather stays put on your carpet. You’d only have to condition it over the company’s website, there is no direct connection to your home PC involved. If it then receives traffic news, the weather forecast or something boring like the stock market, and then synchronizes its colour accordingly from red to yellow to green, and blue. Now you’re the one that gets conditioned to its colour modes, knowing: ‘Ah, yellow with a little bit of orange means sun and a mackarel sky.’ How sophisticated!
Though not specifically designed for wi-fi transmissions, the home servant R100 can read your emails aloud.
This would have been the place to introduce the Netoy. Since it unfortunately looks like a deranged worm and seems to be kind of a Nabaztag rip-off, I’d rather present this little Japanese fella: the Personal Robot R100 from NEC.
The successor of the PaPeRo is the friendly helper at home that listens to your wishes with its three ear microphones and looks at you with those cute two tiny camera eyes. It can detect you with his six ultra-sonic sensors and flashes its LEDs for you. In the end you will fall for it when it reads your emails aloud which it receives over wi-fi. It can walk around! …well, a little bit at least! and has 300 phrases on its mind to tell you. It can even play a video message over the TV (still its batteries have to be charged after two hours).
He’s a small one, but cute.
R100: robotic gathering
PhotoVu: A simple flat screen with a wi-fi connection, embedded in a classy wooden frame.
Okay, it can’t sing and dance yet. But this is a wi-fi enabled photo frame called PotoVu that syncs with your daily Flickr output. A nice one to have on the shelf, definitely. It is a fluid picture frame, so to say, updating itself constantly with picts you want to see in a spacious 17” from Flickr, Apple iPhoto Photocasts and Google Picasa. Or just send it an email with your favourites and it will display it in a slide show.
If you still don’t have enough – or even better, you want to experiment with wi-fi gadgets yourself, start with hyper geek Mike Outmesguine’s how-to manual titled Wi-Fi Toys. The co-founder of the Californian wireless users group SOCALWUG shows 15 tricky ways of building your own wireless device at home. For starters he puts the first five chapters of this compendium on his website for free.
So get up and do it the Gyro Gearloose style!