I am a firm believer that all the great things on the web will be made available to us in new ways, in a more natural (or ‘ambient’) way. For instance, I would love to get my news updates or messages while having breakfast without the need to start my computer. Here is a device that claims to do so: The first smart rabbit – Nabaztag. This wifi-enabled ‘rabbit’ can send and receive MP3s and messages that are read out loud as well as perform the following services (by either speaking the information out loud or using indicative lights): weather forecast, stock market report, news headlines, alarm clock, e-mail alerts, and others. It is basically an evolution of the famous Tamagotchi and shares the same phylosophy as MIT spin-off Ambient Devices.
It also reminds me of a (research) project at Philips called Smart Companion. The device combines computer vision, speech and robotics to interact with users in a natural way, by understanding spoken requests, giving replies, recognizing faces and using body language such as facial expressions, head nodding and shaking or colored light. It even recognizes individual users and can turn its head to follow users as they move around in the room. I have not heart from it since 2005, so I guess this project ended like many Philips iniatives… no where. The irony is that Philips’s vision behind Smart Companion is very good, but the focus is too much on technological advanced solutions rather than developing a product that is ‘usable’ and ‘affordable’ (with current available technology). The approach from Violet with their ‘rabbit’ is much more practically and therefore has more chance of survival.