The wizarding world of Harry Potter won’t be the only place you’ll find enchanted objects.
According to MIT Media Lab researcher David Rose, the term “enchanted object” is used to describe any everyday object with extraordinary functions.
“We are now standing at the precipice of the next transformative development: the Internet of Things. Soon, connected technology will be embedded in hundreds of everyday objects we already use: our cars, wallets, watches, umbrellas, even our trash cans. These objects will respond to our needs, come to know us, and learn to think on our behalf.”
Entitled “Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things,” Rose’s latest book depicts the blueprint for a better (or shall we say ‘smarter’) future, where efficient solutions come hand in hand with technology that delights our senses. Not only are these innovative things fun and alluring, they may hold the key to better satisfying our needs and improving our lives.
“The big lesson here for companies is that they need to embrace and start designing for this world of enchanted objects,” Rose said in a recent BI:Tech interview. “It will mean a key change for how we interact with technology, and it’s a great opportunity for all of these traditional product companies.”
As we prepare for this embedded future where microcontrollers will give once-ordinary objects super “powers,” we’ve decided to explore some of the items currently in existence today. From a pill bottle that can alert you when you’ve skipped your medication to an umbrella that says whether it’ll rain, these gadgets provide us with a glimpse into smarter society — one where fairy tale enchantment becomes a reality.
And, with this state of ambience ever so close, our friends at element14 are challenging hobbyists, designers and engineers alike to add some magic and mystic back into the realm of everyday objects using the new Atmel | SMART SAMA5D4 Xplained Ultra, Arduino Yún (ATmega32U4) and Arduino Uno (ATmega328), among several other kits.
“The Internet of Things may hit a roadblock: namely, the lack of secure communications between objects and individuals could lead to a situation in which data is being shared without explicit consent and exploited for malicious purposes,” element14 adds. “Therefore any Internet of Things challenge we will undertake in the future will have a security aspect: we will want to see that appropriate security measures have been built into the solutions. Bonus points will be given for clear demonstrations of this in the finished project.”
They couldn’t be more correct. When the world around us becomes increasingly more connected, each and every thing will also need to be secure. Without security, there is no way to trust that the authenticity of things and integrity of its data. Due to the drive for bigger data, the cloud and smart communicating, things are becoming ambient; and, because those things all require security, security itself is becoming ambient as well. Fortunately, as Atmel’s resident security expert Bill Boldt explains, there’s an easy way to spread protection to each of the nodes: CryptoAuthentication.
These so-called enchanted objects are broken down into six caterogies, each based upon human desires. The segments include omniscience (the desire to know all), telepathy (the desire for human connection), safekeeping (the desire to protect), immortality (the desire to be healthy), teleportation (the desire to move effortlessly) and expression (the desire to make).
Like Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Always seem to forget to take that pill in the morning or before bed? This smart cap will remind you to take your medications by lighting up, making chirping sounds, and eventually sending you a text message. You can share your medication data with a remote loved one, a professional caregiver, and even your pharmacy. No more calling to refill those prescriptions!
The Ambient Umbrella
What if your umbrella had a handle that would glow if snow or rain was in the forecast? You’ll never forget to grab it on your way out the door again!
Google Latitude Doorbell
Created at the MIT Media Lab, the Google Latitude Doorbell chimes a tune when a family member is approaching the house. Each family member has their own tune. Have some fun with it: Imagine setting it to play “Master of the House” from Les Misérables as you approached the door, or the Jaws theme song for your mother-in-law.
The Ambient Orb
When you think of David Rose and ambient object, this “magical” orb is often times the first thing that pops into mind. This device tracks real-time data for the stock market, pollen count, traffic congestion, and more, and glows specific colors to let you know if the data looks good or bad.
Feel like you’re walking on sunshine? This small will let you know whether you’re actually taking in enough bright light during your day, in order to help you improve your energy levels, sleep cycle, mood, and so much more.
Let’s face it, energy bills are the worst — especially those living in extremely cold climates in the winter and warm in the summer. To better help you save a buck or two, the Energy Joule can track energy costs by glowing red if prices are high, yellow if prices are average, and green if prices are low.
The Facebook Coffee Table
‘Like!’ This innovation is bringing coffee talk into the digital era. The incredibly social-savvy table listens to your conversations and displays photos from your Facebook page whenever they are appropriate to the conversation. Think Mark Zuckerberg meets Minority Report.
Never quite sure as to which outfit to buy? Ladies, you’re in luck. This smart mirror records the outfits you try on, so you can compare them and decide what to buy or wear. Never have to go back and forth again.
Amazon Trash Can
Forget to replace the toilet paper? Run out of milk? Need laundry detergent? This trash can can now scans any object you’re disposing and automatically reorder it from Amazon.
This gives a whole new meaning to ‘musical chairs!’ The Pandora Chair is designed to play music based on your level of incline. Envision the possibilities: Sit back, relax and enjoy the tunes of the caribbean. Or, sit upright, intensely focus on your work while listening to some “Eye of the Tiger.”
As our days get too busy, it can quickly become too difficult to manage our liquid intake. Luckily, a smart cup can do that for you — it knows what kind of fluid you’re drinking and track how many calories and how much sugar, fat, protein, sodium, and caffeine are in that beverage.
The Skype Cabinet
Tired of always having to grab the computer, flip it open and sign into Skype? Thanks to this project from MIT Media Lab, all you have to do is simply open a wooden door to telconnect with a friend or loved one. No more setup, bad lighting, or those irritating headphones.
NOTHING, we repeat NOTHING is worse than losing your luggage while traveling. This smart luggage tracker can slide right inside your suitcase and inform you of its whereabouts using its companion app, which connects to the tracking device.
Are the culprit in your household’s excessive energy consumption? This innovative clock shares real-time feedback on the amount of energy your home is using. It learns your consumption habits, then offers some subtle feedback on how you’re tracking against yourself.
Goji Smart Lock
As we inch closer to a Jetsons-like future, of course there will be smart locks! Easily lock and unlock your door with your smartphone, after snapping pictures of visitors at your door and automatically sending real-time picture alerts to your device.
Yes, this is exactly what it looks like: a WiFi-enabled rabbit. Unlike Peter Cottontail, this device tells you the time, a recap of the week, RSS news feeds, a report on the air quality or traffic, an MP3 alarm clock, a weather forecast, a stock ticker, and even e-mail alerts.
Good Night Lamp
In essence, the Good Night Lamp is a physical social network. The lamps, which come in a set of two, work in unison. Turning on the larger one not only emits light but triggers on the little one as well. This connectivity allows you to keep in touch with people all over the world without having to pick up the phone.
Tagg Dog Collar
Tagg is a GPS device that attaches to the collar of your dog. The system enables pet owners to define a safe zone around there home and instantly receive text and email alerts when the pet leaves that zone. What’s more, the wearable also monitors their activity and fitness by measuring the amount of activity in their day.
Mimo Baby Shirt
Boston-based startup Rest Devices has developed a smart baby onesie for parents. Founded by a group of former MIT students, Mimo monitors the respiration, skin temperature, body position, sleeping and activity levels of infants. Meaning, those with newborns will soon no longer have to worry about getting up and frequently checking on the baby throughout the night, instead only when necessary.
The Nest Thermostat doesn’t need to be programmed, and is equipped to learn and remember your temperature habits. Meaning, the device turns itself down when you’re away to help save energy and can change the temperature from anywhere using your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
The smart fork, which was introduced at last year’s CES, uses electronic sensors to monitor your eating habits. Designed by HAPILABS, the ARM Cortex-M0 embedded utensil tracks the number of bites, intake speed as well as notifies you to step away from the dinner plate. This information is then uploaded via USB or Bluetooth to an online dashboard to analyze your progress.
The future for anyone who wants to tell their own story has never looked brighter. That is because of the Atmel | SMART SAM9G25 powered Narrative Clip — a tiny, automatic 5-megapixel camera paired with an app that offers users access to a “photographic memory” which is both searchable and shareable. Clip it onto your shirt and let it snap away, recording all your daily activities in 30-second increments.
Feeling inspired? Head over to element14’s official contest page here to get started. The grand prize winner will receive a trip to World Maker Faire 2015 in New York.