Bzzz. Feep. Dingdong. Fuump. "Hello"!
What a strange intro for a writeup, but then we are discussing a French, pokemon-esque, wifi enabled rabbit with ears that rotate 360 degrees and a plethora of small lights that go off in beautiful patterns.
(I am sure that some of you by now firmly believe that Heisy has now completely lost it, but walk with me here, it will all end in a rational explanation)
The Nabaztag (which means 'Rabbit' in Armenian) is a ca 20 cm high, stylized rabbit made out of white translucent plastic. It's two ears, powered by two electric motors, are 180 degrees rotatable and within its trunk is a number of LED's that glow in 6 different colours. It has a PIC18F6525 microcontroller, a BenQ 802.11b Wi-Fi PCMCIA card, a ml2870a Audio-PCM sound chip, some memory and a LED controller on board, making Nabaztag really a small homecomputer in a rabbit costume. It plugs into the mains of your home and, as soon as you turn it on, looks for a local WiFi network, connects via DHCP and checks on a central server whether there are things for it to do.
Out of the box, it plays mp3s (that you send it via its central server), informs you about specific emails (i.e. a wiggle with its L ear and a flute sound make you aware of an email from your accountant), tells you the traffic and weather, and so on. If you decide to spend 5 Euros a month, Nabaztag will read you your daily news, RSS feeds (i.e. E2's new nodes), tell you about the stock market and a multitude of other things that you actually don't need.
So far, so cute. Where it gets really interesting, is its API: Violet, the company that designed the electric rabbit, released an API and documentation of how to program the little thing, and now a little subculture of apps has started to appear, which make it interesting to use (including desktop widgets for OS X and Linux, little php scripts for bloggers, etc). A large, dedicated community populates forums and flickr groups, comparing mods and fashion for their electronic Lagomorphs.
DirksHenriette, as my Nabaztag is called, sits demurely next to the TV on one of my speakers and wakes me in the morning with a little 'Tic Toc', before starting to read me the BBC headlines. It does little Tai Chi manoevres with its ears from time to time and sends me messages from my blog. Sometimes it tells me how it feels.
With other words, a must for every geek household, and with its stylish design even acceptable for interior design conscious women (Phew).
Nabaztag's Homepage: http://nabaztag.com
A picture of DirksHenriette: http://snarkenf.freeshell.org/Henriette.JPG