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?)