Haladjian, 45, is a serial tech entrepreneur whose latest creation, Nabaztag, is a Wi-Fi—enabled rabbit that can silently communicate weather and stock information through colored lights, as well as offer aural versions of RSS feeds, email, and MP3 files. Version 2.0 of the under-$200 device made its U.S. retail debut this fall. Here, Haladjian explains why we need more smart objects.
"There's a gap from one side of the screen to the other. When I'm online, Web sites know who I am, what I like, and what I did the last time I was there. In the real world, that doesn't happen. I want to reproduce the stuff that happens online in the real world. Because if we're truly going to have a connected world, it's not just going to be through sitting in front of a screen, which is very limiting. We need smart objects that can help us create a screenless world that still gives us the power of the Internet.
People have tried to create 'smart' refrigerators and things like that before, but what's fun about that? If you want to make something pop, you have to do it through something fun, not something useful. We accidentally created a rabbit. This wasn't a calculated choice, the product of focus groups. I just happened to have a toy rabbit on my desk, and my cofounders and I thought, 'What if we stuffed it with Wi-Fi? Can we make parts move without robotics?'
We knew we had something when we sold out the first 5,000 in five days—and that was in France, where centuries of Cartesian philosophy means everyone thinks that everything has to be useful. Now we're coming to America, and we'll see what the 'Internet of things' could be."