Information at a glance...

A $30,000 SMS-enabled chandelier… I realize that this thing was intended as a “look at me!” publicity stunt, but it is indicative of a trend that I’m really fascinated by: the notion of Internet-enabled “glance-able” technologies. More mainstream examples (if you can call these mainstream) include the Microsoft SPOT technology as implemented in Fossil and Sunto watches, as well as the more elegant implementations by Ambient technologies. (They sell an excellent “dashboard” device that has analog “VU” style meters that respond to various configurable events—web traffic, weather, etc. I want one.)

As a user of the SPOT watch, I can say that the argument “Yeah, but I can look that information up in my web browser or on my cell phone” doesn’t hold up in the real world: there’s a difference between actively looking something up and simply glancing at an object on the wall, or being peripherally aware of a more subtle way of indicating the status of something important to you. (Another great ambient device, the Orb, glows in a different color based on Internet-based information.) Do you pull up a web page to see what time it is? Of course not—you look at a wall clock, or your watch… why not do the same for weather? For stock quotes? For Instant Messages? For traffic information?

I hope that this kind of technology (in less gaudy form than this hideous chandelier) takes off. I really think it is useful. However, in terms of text messaging or Instant Messages, they are less useful because of the inherent one-way nature of the devices. However, my wife sends IMs to my SPOT watch all the time.