Everything will soon be connected to the social net--we've said it before, but if you're a social network denier then here's proof positive: Now your tiny baby can status update too. It's all thanks to Twitter, Arduino, and some creative thinking.
The magic comes from Belgium's Hasselt University and a course on mobile and pervasive computing--it was the winner in the 2009 Innovative and Creative Applications competition. The judges liked its innovation and the fact it can let children "not capable of verbal communication to communicate" via the hardware/software/social net mashup.
The tech is essentially quite simple: The team took a Fisher Price Activity Center, hacked its guts by adding sensors and an Arduino board to handle the computer-Twitter interface and added pics of mommy and flashing lights to the gizmos on the device's front. When a baby plays with the toy now the electronics work out what's going on and send a Tweet that corresponds to the baby's actions. For example, if the baby plays with the button that has a picture of mom on it for longer than a few minutes, a Tweet will go out with text something like "@mom. Baby is missing you lots." There's more too: If more than one Twoddler is connected up to the net, then baby can join a physical social net, of sorts, and activate flashing lights on their peers machines too--a kind of group play with a virtual-reality angle.
While this sounds sweet, it should be filling you with a degree of dread. At least it will if, like me, you're a new parent whose nerves are jangled by the 1,000th daily activation of that particular irritating bit of electro-music that your baby's favorite toy bleeps out. Because the idea that one's baby at play can send out automated Tweets direct to your smartphone--particularly ones that are emotionally charged, if you're at work and baby's with a minder or at crèche--is slightly chilling. Luckily Twoddler is still a prototype...but I await the day when Twitter-connected electro-diapers alert you to the status of baby's movements with terror.