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From Connecting Rabbits to Connecting Everthing Else

The next presentation here at next09 is by Rafi Haladjian from Violet, a company founded in 2003 in Paris. He says that the new frontier for future developments is no longer cyberspace, but meatspace - the physical world. There is a life after the PC...

But how do we get there? Violet's first step was to create the world's first Internet-connected, wi-fi, toy rabbit (think robotic, not fluffy). This also demonstrated that everything is now possible, no matter how absurd - if you can network rabbits, you can connect anything. In effect, the rabbit blinks, moves, speaks, reads, sings, hears and 'smells' (using RFID); it is an ambient information device which acts as a spontaneous information provider for short 'goot to know', real-time, information and snack media, and as a multi-expression messenger which can be controlled over the Internet.

The product, Nabaztag, was very successful in France, and a spontaneous community of users, many of whom were substantially emotionally invested in the toy, emerged around it. (Someone even wrote an opera for 100 toy rabbits.) But where to from here? For Rafi, the next step (now that he has connected rabbits) is to connect everything else.

The final aim is the Internet of Things, the emergence of which is now virtually inescapable: historically, all successful technologies (watches, toasters, VCRs, PCs, mobiles) become completely pervasive. At the same time, there is no increasing convergence of all uses in a single device; rather, devices multiply as new enabling and enhancing technologies (think electricity) are introduced. Today this is true for wireless and mobile networking, of course (there's now even a wireless toaster, which can burn downloaded images onto your toast).

Today, there are a lot of data trapped in individual fishbowls (such as social media sites and other information repositories); the aim for the future is easy data transferability from one device and one context to another. And there is a limitation of digital technologies in that most information is still accessed through the bottleneck of display screens, to which the user's attention needs to be directed; what is necessary here is to transmit some of that information through other media, other channels, other senses. This is a move from the GUI to tangible interfaces - or even to a world where the user's environment itself becomes the interface.

There are some (light-hearted) estimations of the total number of things in the world (coming in at 100,000+ billion) - so there's still a fair way to go in establishing the Internet of Things by turning all of them into connected objects (or 'cobjects').

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