Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Ubiquitous connectivity and the ambient Internet . . . . in the kitchen

November 13th, 2007 by Seb Chan

We’ve probably all heard of the Internet Refrigerator, but I’ve never really understood why you’d bother with one.

Last week my Chumby arrived (via a friend in San Francisco) and it is sitting in the kitchen alongside the tea. Although the Chumby is not the most versatile of devices, what I like about it is its simplicity. Basically at the moment it is an internet alarm clock with support for Flash and copious RSS feeds. However it has been developed to be ‘hackable’ and a growing community of hardware and software developers are developing new widgets and accessories for it. ‘Installing’ widgets requires a seperate computer to login to Chumby.com and deploy new content to your device.

At the network end it support only wifi – but without batteries, AC power only, it makes for a ‘tethered’ wireless experience. Making things interesting are its two USB ports, touch screen and motion sensors – all of which will offer the opportunity for expandability. My real gripe with it at present is its lack of support for streaming audio – it can obviously connect to anything on the net, but it lacks the codecs and the necessary licensing to currently allow me to use it to completely replace a clock/radio with streaming radio.

As a first generation device – currently in very limited pre-release – it is an interesting experiment. Setting up a museum screensaver type of widget for this would be pretty trivial, although it does raise the question of whether it is desirable for museum content to become ‘ambient’. Obviously this sort of ‘always on’ ambient Internet is well on its way and we may not have much of a choice . . . (do I really need to be updated of Facebook alerts when I’m making a pot of tea?)

Tags: 4 Comments

  • hi seb —

    interesting that you mention ‘ambient museum content’… it seems to be one of the most powerful possibilities of open content for museums (and the most fear inducing). museum collections in new contexts open for new interpretations could be incredibly empowering for users and greatly enhance the “reach” of museums.

    i can’t help thinking about the genesis of interactive home systems (from which corbis grew) and its business model of licensing images for home display. now, the Rijksmuseum’s mac dashboard widget pushes you a work-a-day from their collection. A tag-driven stream of museum objects (based on ‘tea’?) might be just the thing for your kitchen counter ;)

    jennifer

  • Seb you swine. You one-upped my Nabaztag!…gonna have to talk nicely to Father Christmas and see if he can’t land me a chumby…

  • Actually,

    Chumby can play audio streams. I have it playing from bee.fm successfully. It just does not have the flash interface for it (yet). You have to enable SSH and run btplay from command line.

    If you search Chumby’s forums for btplay, you should be able to find enough instructions (including mine).

    As to museum use, if you could feed any internals statistics into it, it might be interesting. E.g. which exhibits have most people in them, when the next show is, how many people are reading this blog. :-)

  • Hey Seb – We’re planning on prototyping with it at the Museum of Science in Boston as a way to distribute stats to managers – number of members and visitors in the museum and web stats. I’m hoping it will stir up more interest in real time info… – Emily