The premise behind it is brilliantly simple: There is a tray-like RFID reader which you attach to your computer via USB port. And included with the reader are a couple of RFID tags, which you attach to the physical stuff you own. Some of the tags I think are pre-programmed ( for example, keys or umbrella) and when you put a tagged object on the reader, it calls up contextually-relevant information in your web browser (for example, traffic or weather, respectively). You can buy new tags and program them through the Mir:ror web site (I’m not quite sure how this works, I don’t have one yet!).
For a new take on an old tradition, want to open up NYT.com when you sit down to your morning bowl of cereal? Attach an RFID to your box of Cheerios and swipe it on the reader to enjoy the news over your breakfast, all without pressing a button. Ahhhh, the internet of things is here … and it’s adorable!
So, the interesting thing here is that this is not a terribly new or novel idea. Ask anyone who’s been through a degree program at a technology/design school recently and they’ll tell you that this RFID stuff is pretty well trodden in class projects, theses, etc. And from what I can gather, this seems to be a pretty naive implementation that requires the user to physically stick tags to their stuff and then physically touch that stuff to the reader which is tethered to a computer.
It is not nearly as ambitious or elegant as efforts that recognize real-world objects in cameraphone photos (Nokia’s take, and Microsoft’s Lincoln) and let you act on them or any number of “intelligent” location aware applications. But the difference between the Mir:ror product and these other prototypes is just that … it’s a purchase-able product, and not an alpha research prototype downloadable from a lab’s website Disclaimer: i’ve never actually used the prototypes i just mentioned, so I’m not knocking them, just making a point about making technology accessible and bringing it to market.
Now, I realize the value of far-out prototyping and the need for really smart people to be constantly pushing the boundaries of what a technology can do. Even if the effort does end with nothing more than a pre-alpha prototype that crashes often and only works on a certain release candidate of a single operating system, there are more intangibles and learnings that can be taken away so that when the system is built a second time, it’s done more robustly, with a lot less resources expended. Without that kind of forward-thinking work, we wouldn’t have many of the technologies we think of as a commodity today. In short, this kind of work needs to be done for us to move forward.
But sometimes a simple solution is a good one, and I think that Violet has recognized an opportunity here and pounced on it. I give them kudos that they’ve gone ahead and made a stab at commercializing something that has been around for quite a while, but never really taken off in the consumer space. It may not end up being a killer product, it may only be bought by nerds, and it may not amount to any more significance in the lives of the people who purchase it than a toy would…. but it’s something. It’s a statement; a provocation to get consumers thinking about the possibilities of what is a really neat and, imho, incredibly underused (at least in the consumer electronics realm) technology.
One reason for the failure or lack of uptake of a new medium or technology is that nothing exists in the market which can utilize that technology. And in turn, one of the reasons for failure of those products which utilize the new medium or technology, is that there just aren’t enough compelling instances of the medium or technology out there to warrant the purchase of something which utilizes that technology (even if the technology is 10x faster, 7x more secure, and twice as robust). And so on.
It’s a vicious cycle.
So my hope for this product is that it helps tip the balance enough that some clothing manufacturer, food producer, or maker or any other consumer good realizes the incredibly opportunity here and starts shipping their product with RFID tags. People will want to leverage this and buy the Mir:ror product or perhaps one of its competitors. And then goods manufacturers will see the competitive advantage of shipping “smart” tissues or whatever (put a dirty tissue in the reader and it brings up the pollen count?) and make more products with RFID technology, which will spur the proliferation of readers (maybe one in my mobile phone .. please?), and so on and so on, until everything around us can talk to everything else without our intervention and we lives Jetson-like lives filled with modern technological conveniences only dreamed about, until it all ends in one bloody, violent robot siege of humankind…
Hrmmm … on second thought, perhaps I’ll put that $70 towards a G1 or something less dangerous.
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