Hello Chumby.

New watches come out from time to time, cars are updated yearly as “this year’s models” are unveiled; new flavors of Ben & Jerry Ice Cream are always being developed. These are all just variations of products that already exist.

But every so often a completely new category of product appears. Sometimes it’s cool and unique (the Segway, perhaps), sometimes it’s unexpected but useful (television, for example), but sometimes the new category needs to “be found by an audience” before it can gain popularity.

Meet the Chumby.

I call it an “Internet Delivery Device,” but even that description doesn’t serve to describe this “bean-bag with a screen” that’s starting to appear on desks and bureaus around the globe. Technical writers and those “in-the-know” like to call this an “ambient device,” which to regular folks simply means it’s something that works on its own and “does things” without continued interaction. Like a clock. Or like a radio. Or like a clock radio… that’s also a photo frame, and a web camera viewer, an email gateway, weather station, auction tracker, video viewer, news feed, stock market ticker, thought provoker, even a game device.

And it doesn’t end there. People familiar with the Flash programming environment can create little applications that run on the Chumby. Flash is a graphic application used worldwide for visual and animated elements on web sites, but in its basic configuration any developer interested in creating in Flash can get up to speed very quickly. The Chumby runs these Flash applications, called “widgets,” and hundreds are available for free on the Chumby website. Dozens of new widgets are added every week in numerous categories. Chumby widgets relating to your own personal or business interests can be found and loaded into your own Chumby at any time.

First I bought two Chumbys – one each for a niece and nephew (their parents almost immediately tried to “waylay” ownership but I stood my ground, “They’re for your kids, but you can set up your own widget channel too!”), and now I have my own right here on my desk, interacting with me subtly and in its own quiet way, or playing Internet radio stations when I need a lift! Right now the “Rotten Tomatoes” widget is reporting on movies that opened this week with a gauge of their “Freshness or Rottenness” (Death Race is “28% Rotten,” in case you needed to know.)

I’ve set up a “Virtual Chumby” where you can see one of my widget channels (without my email widgets or other non-public content). You can interact with some of the “virtual widgets” by tapping the screen, but most widgets show the content without the screen interaction that occurs on the Chumby itself. I’ve included a couple of Web Cams (the Panda Cam is there), and a variety of widgets to give you an idea of what this new kind of product category is all about.

Perhaps the Chumby will find you as its next new audience member!

Visit the Chumby web site at:

View the content of one of my Chumby channels at my “Virtual Chumby” page:

Enjoy! (And let me know if you get yourself a Chumby!)

August 21, 2008 @ 10:30 PM