Wireless rabbit creates Internet buzz

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 Wireless rabbit creates Internet buzz

A wireless rabbit computer peripheral has been causing a stir of excitement on social networking sites.

A wireless rabbit computer peripheral has been causing a stir of excitement on social networking sites.

Talking, singing and waggling its ears, this rabbit interfaces with Internet content as a high-tech toy of the new millenium.

Taking the shape of an unotrusive white blob, this “rabbit” features cartoonish eyes and animatronic rabbit ears which swivel and rotate in response to various stimuli, such as wireless streaming music or realtime stock reports.

With no “display” as such, the Nabaztag uses changing lights and ear waggling to deliver its messages, along with a whimsical robotic voice. Warm coloured lights fringe its edges and coloured light spots appear on its belly to as a way of communicating various forms of information.

Dubbed the “Nabaztag”, the Armenian word for Rabbit, this Wi-Fi enabled toy is on sale in France, with a number of free services included. In that region, the Nabaztag offers a variety of local services.

Out of the box, the Nabaztag is capable of reading out the (Internet-accurate) time on the hour, and spelling out various Internet feeds: traffic reports, air quality in Paris and weather forecasts. When paired with another rabbit, the two will mirror their ear movements in symphony.

The most interesting features of the device are sadly not included, including its ability to read out your latest email headings or SMS messages as they arrive, an RSS feed of headlines from your favourite website or it can act as a high-tech alarm clock, playing a set of pre-scheduled MP3 music to rouse you from your slumber, with a different song for every day.

These are instead part of commercial services for the device that require a monthly subscription fee.

Still, the Nabaztag showcases a modern marriage of robotics, wireless connectivity and simple responses to its environment which is gaining it converts across the globe. Among other features, the ability for enthusiasts to create “homebrew” extensions to the Nabaztag’s repertoire has got programmers and tinkerers racing against each other to release new features.

There are already sites catering to disassembling the Nabaztag’s internal code.
Although the Nabaztag has caused quite a stir among gadget lovers across the Internet and hundreds of thousands of units have been sold overseas, surprisingly there’s currently no Australian distributor.

Legions of fans are disappointed at the lack of retail availability for these diminutive white rabbits, with design aesthetics fit to rival the iMac or iPod. The device is also reportedly popular with a young female audience. Social networking sites Flickr and YouTube are plastered with images and video of customised Nabaztags created by adoring fans.

Being Wi-Fi enabled, the Nabaztag can be placed anywhere it has access to power and the wireless signal from your access point. It can be placed in such odd positions as the kitchen, singing, waggling and channeling the Internet in its own form of high-tech glossolalia. The creator, French company Violet (http://www.violet.net), bills itself as a “smart objects and ambient intelligence pioneer”, taking advantage of “emotional technology” and lofty visions of advanced future devices that communicate with each other.

At the time of press, the Nabaztag is only available from overseas online-retailer dynamism.com, for AU$247 (including shipping to Australia).
Links: http://www.nabaztag.com
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