Once in a while, a really good idea comes along that I have trouble not thinking about. Such is currently the case with the pictured device, called the Bug, soon to be available from Bug Labs. What is it? The answer is that it is almost anything you want it to be, and it can do almost anything you want it to do. To be specific, the Bug is a hand-held computer base with which modules can be easily snapped on and off. The modules that will be available upon release of the product, which will be sometime in 2008, include a camera, GPS, motion sensor/accelerometer, and LCD touchscreen. The entire device is open source, from the hardware to the software. This means that the Bug can be configured to precisely the user’s intention.
So, I could, for example, use the accelerometer module with a program that would take data points as my car coasts from, say, 60mph. From this data I could determine my vehicle’s drag coefficient. Or I could connect the Bug to the headphone output of my radar detector. With the GPS module I could keep a record of the locations where radar signals are detected. Then, I could make the sound turn off whenever I am driving through an area where there are always false alarms.
Apple wouldn’t build and sell such a device. Neither would Dell or Sony. That’s precisely why the people at Bug Labs are so smart. A device that helps you determine how aerodynamic your car is will not sell. But, a device that can adapt to any specific function is a major shift from the realm of conventional consumer electronics, whereby the creators of the device attempt to tell you what you can and can’t do. There are enough geeks that can appreciate this design philosophy to constitute a large demographic. I can’t get over how Bug Labs achieves this versatility by having the Bug consist of simple building blocks, which dictate the functions of the device as a whole depending on selection and arrangement. The Bug is awesome for many of the same reasons that LEGOs are awesome.
The Bug could serve the purpose of an iPhone, should the user so desire. However, I do not imagine the two competing with each other. They are different products. The iPhone is a closed platform that does exactly what Apple designed it to do. Many consumers desire and are satisfied with Apple’s innovation. The Bug is an open platform that allows the user to innovate. It will conform to the user. The community of users will find more uses for the Bug than a team of engineers could hope to incorporate into a closed platform device. Many consumers will find the utility of the Bug very attractive. I sure do.
Anyway, enough of me trying to sell this thing. The folks at Bug Labs do it better. Here’s a link with videos.