in Libraries/Info Sci, Tech

Ambient Information

2007 was the year I finally embraced mobile web browsing. I added a text message package to my phone, which let me get a ton of use from services like Google’s txt integration. I experimented with the DS’ Browser, which gave me a taste of real web access on the go. I added a basic data package to my phone, which freed me from the shackles of wi-fi hot spots. Most recently I added an iPod Touch to my collection, the browsing capabilities of which blow everything else out of the water.

(Funny side story – I didn’t even know my previous phone was capable of handling text messages until I’d had it for about three years, and only discovered this when a friend sent me a message. I was so confused at first.)

Stephen Abram recently posted a link to a story titled “Ten Things That Will Change Your Future”. What intrigues me most from the list is an upcoming product called “The Chumby”. It’s an internet-connected device slightly larger than a coffee mug that sits somewhere in your home and runs through a selection of widgets. It’s a weather station, a flickr photo album viewer, an MP3 player, an eBay auction watcher, an e-mail checker, whatever you want it to be.

Mobile computing can provide me with on-demand information, but other than blackberry-style push e-mail that only works when I actively initiate the demand. By contrast I can set up a device like the Chumby to anticipate my needs. I could keep it in my living room, glancing to check on a soon-closing auction whenever I walk by, or have it alert me to breaking traffic tie-ups. Of course, just about any home PC could be customized to do this now. But a PC and monitor tasked as a Chumby-style appliance almost never looks very good, almost always takes up too much space, and is certainly overkill for the job.

Now, we’re approaching a point where form and function will meet. I’m not saying the Chumby is the be-all/end-all device, but I’m really excited to see what comes next.