Birmingham Post - A Better Bunny?

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Nabaztag! No its not my hay-fever coming back but the cute bunny now sitting on our breakfast bar. Like Harvey he's white, but unlike the famous film rabbit he's only 20cm tall, conical, glows with multi-coloured lights, has rotating ears, and is French.

Nabaztag, or Flexx as he's now been christened (thanks Ruth), doesn't hop or have a cute tail, but does have a wi-fi connection, and a speaker, and apart from being the world's first cyber-bunny is also the first affordable Internet appliance.

Less than two hours after leaving Selfridges, and only five minutes out of the box and Flexx had found our Wi-fi network and connected to it. A couple of minutes on the Nabaztag web-site to register its address (and give it a name) and we were ready to start telling Flexx what to do.

Flexx can carry-out a range of tasks. These include calling out reminders at set times (“Ruth remember your violin today”), changing colour to reflect weather or traffic conditions, and even reading out BBC news feeds. Friends can also email messages to Flexx which he'll read out as they arrive to any of us within listening range, and then store them until someone replays or cancels them. In France you can even text the bunnies. The girls are already laying their plans to get their friends to email them via Flexx, or to use Flexx themselves to summon Dad's taxi.

The Nabaztag even has its own API so that developers can write new services for it. I've already made a start -getting it to read out the evening TV while I'm cooking supper. Whilst the bunny might not offer all the functions on my wish-list, it does come pretty cheap – just £80. And that is where its importance lies – it is one of the first sub-£100 Internet appliances to come onto the market.

By Internet appliance I mean something that uses the Internet but doesn't look like a PC, tablet or TV. These appliances represent the arrival of the ambient Internet – Internet computing embedded in the things around us. Don't confuse ambient with ubiquitous though. The ubiquitous Internet is giving us the ability to access the Internet when we want it from phones, Wi-fi, Wi-max and broadband. The ambient Internet is when the things around us access the Internet on our behalf, without us even asking them to do it.

But after the initial fun has worn off will the cyber-bunny still be useful – or will it sit forlornly under the sofa like our borrowed Aibo did? Inevitably that will depend on who you are, and how you use it. Something tells me the kids will take to it though. And there is something interesting about being able to email “the house”.

One aspect that particularly interests me is the role of devices like the Nabaztag in helping disabled and elderly users. Even a one-way device like Nabaztag could provide a visually impaired users with a quick and easy way of accessing information, and for elderly users it could provide a usefula reminder and alerting device, and handle messages from care providers. The Japanese have been putting a lot of work into this area. Just don't mention the word “computer” and see how people respond to an even faintly animate object.

So for now Flexx is just finding his feet. Something tells me though that bigger and better bunnies may be just around the corner!

Talk to Flexx by clicking on the I LOVE MY NABAZTAG link on the right hand side of the blogs home page. See a video of Flexx in action and read about our plans for Flexx on the Daden web site.

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This page contains a single entry by David published on June 13, 2006 9:29 AM.

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