There’s a terrific new article (login required) in New Scientist featuring my friend and colleague Ted Hays. Back in 2009, Ted created an Internet-enabled bubble gun in the Networked Objects class I taught at ITP. His Bubble Gun announces incoming email with a stream of soapy spheres. It’s a whimsical demonstration of how simple devices can join the Internet, transforming data from chilly abstractions into satisfying interactions. Here’s an excerpt:
Hayes represents a growing movement of tinkerers who are merging the online and physical worlds in surprising ways. Instead of waiting for technology companies like Cisco or Apple to make their gadgets, these “makers” are buying off-the-shelf computer chips, sensors and wireless radios, and doing it themselves. They are transforming their possessions – from plant pots and clothing to thermostats or cuddly toys – to become smarter, connected and social.
…where established companies are still struggling to figure out how to connect with consumers, a growing community of amateurs is busy creating thousands of smart devices. And some technology observers believe that all this activity is revealing how to build an Internet of Things that people actually want to use.
The article, by MacGregor Campbell, also covers independent connected projects like Twine and Arduino. These, combined with radios like the XBee, promise to bring the power of device networking to a broader audience.
Here’s Ted’s Bubble Gun video: