Wireless devices as informational art
February 28, 2007 9:18 AM   Subscribe

What non-computer wireless devices are available for displaying information? I already know about Ambient Devices and Nabaztag. What else is out there?

I'm looking for 802.11 devices I can put on my home network that are quirky and maybe even beautiful, but still serve some information function. Key features should include an open API like Nabaztag, 802.11 (not ambient's pager network thing), and preferably no subscription service required.
posted by cosmicbandito to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Chumby is pretty good. I have one of the first versions, and since both the software and the hardware are open source, you can pretty much do whatever you want with it. They're not officially launched yet, but you may want to wait for it - shouldn't take much longer.
posted by fredoliveira at 9:58 AM on February 28, 2007

I don't know of any commercially-available Ambient-like hardware, but if you're willing to get your hands dirty and learn some electronics/crafting, there're a lot of resources on the web with regard to designing with embedded microcontrollers, and building pretty physical I/O. The MAKE: blog highlights a lot of these projects.

The Atmel AVR family has a lot of good information and free tools online, and they're about as easy as it gets in terms of interfacing simple external peripherals. TuxGraphics has opensource hardware/software for implementing a simple Ethernet server on the ATMega88, and it looks like you might be able to replace the Ethernet jack with an 802.11x transciever. You can also buy Bluetooth modules from Spark Fun that'll interface with any serial device, including the AVR chips. Of course, the AVR is an 8-bit microcontroller and doesn't have the power to do much data analysis onboard, so you're probably going to need to write a server app to scrape your online data sources and convert that information into something your AVR-based device can parse (I've done that sort of thing in Java, but your language of choice will work). There's also the new AVR32 platform, which is much more powerful (it runs a compact Linux distribution), but also more expensive and less friendly to homebrew design -- all the AVR32 parts are BGA, which makes designing homebrew PCBs for them difficult.
posted by Alterscape at 11:26 AM on February 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Chumby looks interesting, I didn't know about it.

There are a number of wiki-enabled "picture frames with various features; some of them are ridiculously fancy.

There's also the Audrey, which got discontinued with years ago but continues to be tinkered with by geeks. These people will sell you one pimped out with wifi.

And of course, you can always get a cheap computer and do whatever you want with it.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:31 AM on February 28, 2007

A while back I saw this $12.97 Wireless Weather Forecaster on clearance down from $60.00 @ Radio Shack and got it just because of the deal...

They still have it on clearance; although out-of-stock online, you can "Find it near you" using their search...

It updates every 15-20 minutes without the need for a subscription via radio signals... (no need for internet connection or wires)

I am glad I got it and have actually gone back to purchase them as gifts...
posted by MrBCID at 11:27 PM on February 28, 2007

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