I have been Chumby-tised, Resistance is Futile
The Chumby by Chumby Industries is a very innovative little product that is to me a great response by some thinking people on the culture that the Web 2.0 communities are creating.
A while back I wrote about the Chumby as well as talked about why such products might be the next big thing for the Web 2.0. Now I like to give you, dear reader a little treat, I have mange to get an Alpha sample right into my grubby mitts! On a whim I signed up for their closed Alpha product testing group as an Industrial Designer, and after a few emails back and forth, I got selected and inducted into the program! I was surprised as I thought they were looking for hardware and software people that could hacked their open sourced product (hardware and software) to morph it into something different. I guess where I can help contribute is in the product delivery, housing design as well as the usage experience.
So what is a Chumby? Well directly from the site its a clock-radio with a lot more going for it.
Introducing the chumby, a compact device that can act like a clock radio, but is way more flexible and fun. It uses the wireless internet connection you already have to fetch cool stuff from the web: music, the latest news, box scores, animations, celebrity gossip…whatever you choose. And a chumby can exchange photos and messages with your friends. Since it’s always on, you’ll never miss anything.
That’s right it has the ability to pull anything from the internet. Think of it as a news reader, an always accurate clock, a photo frame, and a MySpace viewer. It does not necessary work as a means for you to partake in Web 2.0 communities, but what it essentially does is it allows you to keep track of them. Ok like all “nerds” the unboxing and setting up “ceremony” is this post’s highlight. Not enough companies explore this part of the product experience, and the Chumby does deliver even though it’s only an Alpha prototype. Here we go!
Ooh a nice little recyclable brown box, with some cool branding going on. (Feeling good.)
Ah such a nice touch, the CEO sends me a message of well wishes. (Feeling better.)
Out of the box, the unit and a power source and I ask myself is that it? Hmm clever people at the helm so I trust them.
Front and side view, hmm its a bean bag! (Cool!)
Back view, little raw, but expected. Lots better than some of the prototypes I’ve played with in my day.
Yep its a bean bag material inside.
I “deflower” my Chumby…(excitement)
Plug it in…(even more excitement)
I turn it on and am greeted with a blank screen, and suddenly a cool start up sequence.
Connected and up and running. I get the time right a way.
Now I’m stuck, as it did not come with any instructions. However after popping back to the Chumby website, I realized I needed to sign up and “link” the product up with their server. Once I did that, I had to control myself to prevent putting everything but the kitchen sink into my Chumby’s wireless feed. My Chumby, which I called Fred, in his new home, next to my kitchen sink.
Fantastic, set-up took me all in about 15 minutes. Selecting what to put in was the difficult part. I finally decided to put in Google News, Digg and a few different clock designs. However as the label says its still a prototype and there are a few bugs in the system. So in a bid to strike while the iron is still hot, here are a few of my suggestions on how I think this product can be improved at this stage.
What I like to see:
1) User programmable RSS feeds. This is my no.1 request for the next software update to have. I kind of like what they currently have that I can install, but having to sign up with specific partners or have special installations is a little annoying.
2) Speed control of the changing periods between the different widgets. Widgets are the heart of the Chumby’s software, installing these widgets gives the product its functionality. However it rotates thru the different widgets at a fixed speed. I would like a little more control, to for example keep my News widget a little longer on screen, and perhaps shorten the display of other widgets.
3) A “see more” button to view more of a displayed a news article. The RSS feeds tend to just show a brief summary. Sometimes a little too brief. I would like an option to expand a certain story or feed and view more of it if possible.
4) More international content, like international weather, international stock quotes. Currently it’s just too US centric.
5) An indicator that tells you of new content avaliable. I think this could get annoying if not designed correctly, but it would be nice if a beeping noise or a flashing light could be used to inform us that there is fresh content in a feed or widget.
6) Easier Wi-Fi setup. I’m not sure why in most Wi-Fi setup procedures; it requires you to enter the converted Hex digits instead of your ASCII (text) password you used to set it up. Life would be so much easier if you could. Most people can read English, so I think getting them to read code is a lot harder. Perhaps the Chumby can be different in this way, a product that is for the lay person on the street. Explains the bean bag housing eh?
All in all, it’s a great little product and I would buy the final version when it comes out. However this bean bag body does not really appeal to me, so when I have the time, I’ll rip it apart and see what I can do with it. But that my friends is another blog post, so do stay tuned!