The founders of Chumby wanted to create a new device that begs to be hacked. Yesterday, they introduced a prototype of their new gadget to 100 or so attendees of Foo Camp in Sebastopol, California. I was lucky enough to get one.
Chumby is a small, wifi enabled, touch screen information device. When you take it out of the box and plug it in it is essentially a glorified alarm clock. But when you take a moment and register your particular Chumby at their website, it can become just about anything you like. A number of widgets are available now and can be enabled on Chumby with a click. And Since Chumby is completely open source and has made a HDK and SDK available for developers, expect modifications to come quickly.
I enabled a few of the available widgets, and my Chumby now shows pictures from my flickr account as well as Google News headlines. Other Foo attendees have new Digg front page stories, Google Calendar and Slashdot stories on their Chumby.
The device has a 266MHz ARM controller, 32MB SDRAM, a 320×240 3.5 inch touch LCD screen, two speakers, audio output, microphone input functionality and a USB port. Chumby also has a squeeze sensor. All of this is housed within a soft, sqeezable shell about the size of a coconut.
Don’t like somthing about your Chumby? Hack it. The founders not only allow it but are actively encouraging modifications, even leading a number of hack sessions here at Foo. The hardware can easily be ripped out of the shell and put inside something else. The hardware itself can be hacked, or developers can use the tools available on the Chumby site to simply create new widgets.
The examples are limitless. Use the USB port to take a thumb drive with MP3s and build a music player widget, for example. Or a divx player. Or use Chumby to control the air conditioning in your house. Or as a remote control for your television. Etc.
Chumby will not be generally available for purchase until March 2007, but developers can request one now on the Chumby home page. Tell them why you want it, and they may send you one. When it does eventually go on sale, the target price point is $150. The basic service is free, and Chumby may add paid premium services over time.
Most of the Chumby team, including Ken Steele, Bunnie Huang Joe Grand, and Duane Maxwell, is here at Foo demo’ing the product. They are pictured below leading a Chumby hack session.