Think and link

Motorola and MIT want to network all household appliances

Motorola, together with MIT, wants to compete with Sun’s Jini technology for communication of household appliances and consumer electronics, as well as with Jetsend from HP.

After all, Motorola is investing five million dollars to build the Motorola DigitalDNA Laboratory at MIT to let all the smart products that are entering everyday life communicate with each other. The aim is to make sure that the devices are really "think and network", to anticipate and serve the needs of its users. The goal of the new department, which will work closely with the Media Lab’s Things That Think research project, is to network the television set-top box with cars, household appliances, PDAs and wireless communication systems. The interest is of course great at Motorola, after all the company is the world’s largest producer of embedded microprocessors.

Nicholas Negroponte, popular chief ideologue of the Media Lab, offers the vision: "With this new partnership, we will continue to create technologies that make our everyday lives easier. The current ‘cacophony’ of isolated devices and applications will morph into a borderless community of intelligent mechanisms. For example, the telephones will not simply be loud and clear. They will behave like well-trained English butlers who know when to interrupt you and when not to, because they understand who is calling you and maybe even why."

Maybe this is a bit exaggerated – or does Negroponte think that Motorola-MIT will be able to read minds?? Or do you even want to install a lie detector that checks for honesty when answering the question about the caller’s wishes? In any case, it is promised that the joint work of Motorola and MIT "far-reaching" will produce results. It is likely that the cow cabinet will not only report when a product is spoiled, or order supplies from the handler via email when the milk is running low, but also use affective computing to guess what the householder wants to eat, in order to somehow put the desired item in the microwave, while at the same time switching on the TV program, the right lighting or the appropriate music to match the mood. The personal assistant may also independently call a boyfriend or girlfriend when entertainment is needed. Just turning on the coffee maker when you’re sitting in front of the TV is probably not the grossest relief, unless it can automatically fetch water, filter, and coffee, and heat the milk.

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