At first look, the Chumby could be confused for being an MID. Not quite.
It shares more in purpose with the demented but insanely fun Nabaztag, although this time it's got a screen. Oh, and it has a soft exterior, which can be dressed up even further in "denim", "tiger" or "jester" outfits. It's definitely in the running for the cutest tech device on the planet, and is being made available in Australia through ISP Internode.
At its heart, the Chumby is a Linux PC that connects to the internet using 802.11g Wi-Fi, and then displays information that you find useful. It does so in what seems to be the least threatening way possible, meaning a shallow learning curve. Think of it as a turbo-charged RSS feed that also happens to be cute.
The user is encouraged to be tactile — the control panel is initially accessed by squeezing the top of the device, and it also features a touchscreen for ease of use. An accelerometer is buried deep inside somewhere as well, with some applications requiring you to shake or move the Chumby, while a microphone lays in wait for that potential application that requires you to shout at it.
Widgets are configured from Chumby.com, delivered to the device through the internet, and display different types of information on the screen which the Chumby then rotates endlessly. Whether it shows news, social network updates, photos, email, stocks, plays games, streams music or simply functions as an alarm clock, the Chumby can be customised to your taste to display the information you consider as "always on".
The Widgets are based on Adobe's Flash Lite, so it should attract developers as an easy to approach environment, and as a by-product you can have a virtual Chumby online, so others can see what is being shown on your Chumby. Since it's an open platform, things can only get better for the Chumby in terms of interface, options and applications.
Oh, and it can run Quake.
Updates are rolled out automatically to the device through the internet with no need for user intervention, and two USB ports are included so you can either charge devices or play music off them — either through the Chumby's own tiny speakers, or through the headphone port.
If the Chumby has piqued your curiosity, you can purchase it now through Internode for AU$299 by itself, AU$329 with a skin, or the skins separately for AU$39.