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The Nabaztag Smart Rabbit from Violet is a Hello Kitty-like “smart object” connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi. The high-tech bunny is linked to the Nabaztag Web site and lights up and/or wiggles its ears to convey various data drawn from the Net. It can also be programmed to read RSS feeds, e-mails and text messages out loud. Owners set preferences for which items they’d like read. The rabbit can also play MP3s, voicemail messages (only in France), and Nabcasts–podcasts recorded by members of the Nabaztag community.
As with iPods, people are asked to name their Nabaztag device when registering. So far, about 50,000 people have one of the gizmos. Many have taken the idea of personification quite far, dressing up their rabbits. Photos of the rabbits and their habitats are shared on a community Web site called the Nabazta(blo)g. One person from Texas went so far as to send in a video of himself skydiving with his Nabaztag.
Olivier Mendel, one of Violet’s founders, said that Nabaztag means “rabbit” in Armenian. The rabbit shape was chosen to provide people with a sense of whimsy and connection to the smart object.
The Nabaztag is a technological descendent of Ambient Devices’ famous Ambient Orb, which debuted in 2004. Former students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created Ambient Devices to commercialize technology derived from MIT-backed research. The Ambient Executive Dashboard (shown here) doesn’t need to be connected to anything. It takes batteries and works via Ambient Device’s own wireless network. Owners can choose to monitor items like the trading volume on the stock market, Web site traffic, street traffic, the S&P 500, or minutes left on a cell phone.
The Ambient Weather Beacon shifts color for every 10 degrees of change in the outside temperature. It uses white and various blues to denote cold temperatures, and different reds for warmer conditions. It also blinks to warn of precipitation. The Ambient Weather Beacon shown here indicates that the temperature is in the 90s.
Prior to the Ambient Orb, Emoto-Tronics offered the Furby, a smart stuffed animal. The first version appeared in 1998, with an updated version hitting store shelves in 2005. The current Furby responds to voice recognition cues and reads its owner’s “mood.” The gadget replies in its own language, called Furbish, and can also use facial expressions owing to its moving ears, eyebrows, eyelids, plumage and beak. And it can be taught to speak up to 100 words of English. The toys also interact with one another on their own.