Archive for December, 2008

Worth the Wait: Chumby Lands at a Desk Near You

December 30, 2008

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Photos by Jon Snyder

Meet Chumby: a wireless gadget that pulls information off the web and puts it on your desktop. Chumby is like a widget box, serving up a constant stream of photos, sports scores and anything else that can be loaded into an RSS feed. There’s been a lot of hype about this thing. After years in development hell and numerous false starts, it’s been hailed as a revolution in internet access and also slammed as a half-baked gimmick. A gimmick it is not. After plugging in the plush device, we found the Chumby to be the perfect desktop companion, perfect for internet radio and watching eBay.

Chumby works by patching into your WiFi connection, pulling content from the internet and displaying it in creative ways on a 3.5-inch touchscreen. Content arrives in widget form, and arrives in any flavor you can possibly think of — from news aggregators and stock tickers to Lolcat feeds to something called PandaCam. These DIY web-trawlers serve up a custom slice of internet pie wherever you’ve got a WiFi connection (and a power outlet). A few sites and blogs publish their own stuff, but Chumbyland is as dependent on its user base as it is on developers. Can’t find what you want? Conjure up your flash kung fu and create your own customized widget. It doesn’t run Doom (yet), but a quick search of the extensive forums shows that we’re not the only ones asking.

The system does have some kinks. When our router went haywire,  Chumby took a hit of bad WiFi and got strung out, choking on the digital chaff and spinning its wheels at start up. A quick trip to live chat support got us all the help we needed, and resuscitating our Precious was a breeze. —Nate Ralph

WIRED Streams internet radio, or music from your iPod or USB drive. Interspersed ads are unobtrusive. Soft and pretty. High-concept idea executed extremely well.

TIRED
Touchscreen is finicky. Limited widget scheduling, so daily content gets repetitive.  Power adapter connection makes Chumby cuddle-time awkward.

$179, chumby.com

Hug Your Depression Away With $160 LED Pillow

December 30, 2008

Light therapy is hard to understand if you can peep at the sun anytime you want. But some people will take artificial lighting as a sun-substitute for health reasons, which makes the d°light Huggable light-emitting pillow seem like a practical gadget. You could even use it as a night light. Unfortunately, some people have tried it and aren’t impressed, especially by the price.

The d°light Huggable pillow sheet uses batteries (or a 6 volt AC) and envelops a circuit of 12 transparent silicon spheres with LEDs. But according to Yahoo’s Gina Hughes (and Yanko), the pillow is not really comfortable. Its silicone blobs, which scatter the harshness of the LEDs for a warm look, are not soft and give it an uneven shape. And everyone can agree that the $160 price is too much, no matter its benefits.

Also, I’m not the snarkiest of people, but you have to give pause to the over-selling of any gadget. On the designer’s site, it’s mentioned that the pillow ‘almost hugs back as you hold it,’ among other gag-inducing user quotes.

Please. First off, that’s what a Fembot is for, and second, I don’t want to be smothered by glowing pillows. It’s like a fever dream by way of Neuromancer with a dash of Hello Kitty. No go for this one.

Check out Gina’s video on the pillow after the jump.

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Muji Announces Literal-Minded Contest Winners

December 30, 2008

Muji, the “No-brand brand”, has announced the winners of its third design award, and they’re rather odd.

The Gold prize went to Yuki Lida of Japan for the Straw Straw. It’s a drinking straw, made out of, yes, straw. Real, cut-from-the-fields straw, trimmed to length and stuffed into a minimalist Muji plastic bag.

Even more literal is the Granpa’s Nail Hook. Designed by Masashi Watanabe, also from Japan, this hook was inspired by the nails Watanabe’s grandfather pounded into the wall to provide a place to hang coats. What will you find inside the box? You’re ahead of me here — it’s a box of nails.

There is one tweak: a sleeve for each nail means acts as a guide to make sure each tack is hammered in at the same angle and to the same depth. Still, it strikes us that a visit to the hardware store would take care of both these gadgets.

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December 24, 2008

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