Programming Things to Talk

Supermechanical : Tableau physical email

Imagine Tableauone common object from your physical close world communicating with you or other objects. Not a new idea: There has been talk about the Internet of Things for some time, but this time some products are coming out and promise to bring the chance to program some particular behavior to everyday objects, like a nightstand.

Tableau acts as a bridge between users of physical and digital media, taking the best parts of both. It’s a nightstand that quietly drops photos it sees on its Twitter feed into its drawer, for the owner to discover. Images of things placed in the drawer are posted to its account as well.

I find the idea of Tableau fascinating. I have a deep respect for nightstands. I love the moment when I turn the light off, deposit the book I’m reading (or the iPhone I’m reading) on it and drink a last sip of water before sleep comes. Imagine opening up the drawer in the morning and see -not your day agenda, please- a photo being recommended to you as a gift by it -your nightstand.

The company working with Tableau and similar artifacts is about to produce a Lego-like block that can be triggered to emit Tweets when certain events happen, and which can be easily programmed. Twine is the programmable real-world block which can react to events both in the virtual and the real worlds. For instance, a Twine block can be programmed to Twit some key message when the temperature around it drops, or if its accelerometer register a sudden change. At that point, the Tweet can either trigger another block or be simply received as a final message by somebody.

At this time, Supermechanical, the genius startup behind this, is launching through Kickstarter on Jan 3rd, 2012. They initially asked for $35,000 in pledge funds, but with one month left to go, they already got over $117,000!! This means their Twine blocks will be financed and produced, and you can invest at least $35 to support them, or $99 if you want to prepurchase one block with temperature and motion sensor. As you can see from the figure, block programming occurs via a simple Web interface, so no code is needed.

Imagine I put the Twine block by the base of one of my neat green plants. When it gets dry, it Tweets my happy gardener, who can rush and water the plant accordingly.

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About Antonio Vantaggiato

Professor, web2.0 enthusiast, and didactic chef.
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