RFID technology gets mixed press thanks to its useful/creepy remote-distance object identification, but a new device–Mirror–may change all that. It’s a cute, potentially useful gadget, and actually hard to describe–possibly since it’s from the same makers as Nabaztag, another equally hard to explain device falling within the same category.
In essence, Mirror’s a little like augmented reality for physical objects: a USB device that brings up information on a computer when it detects special radio-frequency ID tags, dubbed Ztamps. The whole product combines a hardware dish with the antenna and processing electronics, the suite of uniquely-ID’d stick-on Ztamps, and some specialized software that runs on PCs and Macs. When the system detects a Ztamp it activates the particular response that you’ve selected in the software.
Confused? Imagine running your car keys–equipped with a Ztamp–over the pad on the way out of your home: the system could make a calendar note of the time so your family could determine where you are, and then perhaps bring up a relevant traffic camera, in a browser window, for the commuter journey you’re about to make. An umbrella could prompt the display of a weather forecast. A particular toy could enable pre-selected parental controls on the PC when your children use it. Your wallet could bring up your bank statement. Or it could work the other way around: leave a pre-programmed note for your wife to read when she swipes her purse over the pad on the way in from work, or your kids keys could activate an email to let you know they’re home from school on time.
Mirror is basically a cross-over product, from the virtual back to the real world. It’s akin to house plants Twittering when they need watering, or Internet-equipped refrigerators keeping track of food supplies. Until our homes are run by an intelligent central computer, Mirror will probably serve as a neat and fairly slow-tech electronic butler. Available now for $60.