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Violet Mir:ror – new system connects up the whole world via RFID

Violetmirror

The good folk at Violet, purveyors of the Nabaztag Rabbit, are launching a new product on Monday. The Mir:ror system is a consumer oriented RFID system (reader and tokens) which lets anyone connect up ordinary objects to a computer controlled network via their PC, the Violet central server system and a newly designed RFID chip in the form of stick-on labels called Ztamp:z.

Ztamps 

The idea is you buy packs of these Ztamp:z, attach them to whatever you want – e.g. keys, books, umbrellas etc – register them with the central server and from that moment on the objects are connected to your personal Mir:ror network. What does that mean? Well, once they’re registered, you can set the system up to activate applications whenever the Mir:ror RFID reader sees a Ztamp:z token. Wave your umbrella at the reader and get a weather report read to you from your computer, show it a particular photo and start up a Skype call to that person. You get the idea.

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Suddenly everything gets to be interactive as long as they’ve got a Ztamp:z stuck to them. It’s a very ambitious project and one that fits well with the company’s history with the Nabaztag (which is also Mir:ror enabled). I spent some time with company founder Rafi Haladjian a while back and he demonstrated a prototype to me.

The Mir:ror reader is a plain flat disk shaped thing, which attaches to the USB port of your Mac or PC computer. And that’s it. Once installed it sits there waiting for you to wave a Ztamp:z over it, just like you would a travel card like Oyster. In fact the system recognises an Oyster card because it is built to standard RFID ISO standards (ISO 14443 A&B), which opens up whole areas of possibilities for the future.

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Rafi explained to me that there are currently two scenarios the company is introducing. In the first, consumers buy their own Ztamp:z and stick them on objects to make them network aware. In the second, companies buy a license to attach Ztamp:z at their factories and sell the products already RFID enabled. The first example of this latter commercial collaboration is a deal with Ladybird in Europe to deliver children’s fairy tale books which will trigger an audio reading of the book when you wave it over a Mir:ror.

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The company seems less sure as to what type of generic consumer applications the new technology will inspire, but from my conversation it’s clear that they’re hoping that the open APIs, Javascript widgets and other software developer incentives will encourage a vibrant and creative community of new uses for the system. The Rabbit certainly proved that customisation of this type of product is possible, so it remains to be seen whether the Mir:ror will replicate that success.

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Some applications Rafi mentioned in passing included postcards which triggered a Flickr type slideshow when received and waved over the reader (perfect for non-techie parents perhaps?), and recipe books and travel guides which unlocked premium content when triggered. The system also allows for complex, multiple application launches, so it’s conceivable that a Ztamp:z could be used to trigger quite sophisticated actions when used, with full multimedia delivery done remotely. “We’re bringing the past into the future, by allowing every object to be addressable by the Web”, Rafi explained to me.

Nanoztag 

Of course, and especially in the current economic climate, price is bound to play an important part in the equation, and it is here that the company is hoping to grab economies of scale as the product ramps up. The starter pack will include one Mir:ror reader, 3 blank Ztamp:s and 2 Nano:ztags (tiny RFID enabled rabbits) for £37.00 ($59.00) and a pack of 12 Ztamp:s will be available for around £15.00. It’s certainly not disposable level cheap, so it’s going to be interesting to see whether this innovative and quite brave concept takes off, and if so what applications people come up with to spur adoption.

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 Mir:ror by Violet is the first consummer home RFID-reader * It connects to the PC (Windows or Mac) via USB and launches all kinds of multimedia applications when detecting an object equipped with an RFID-tag. Intuitive and easy-to-use with completely customizable functionalities, this reader reveals the life, power and memory of any of our everyday objects. It is hence possible to associate any kind of multimedia content or interactive application to any kind of objects, to make a brick sing a song, to store one’s personal photos on a pen, to make a phone call by showing a portrait…Everyday objects are now becoming interactive, connected, content-rich with ever increasing remotely controlled services. And the icing on the cake: these once inert now living and communicative objects just speak up within their contextual use.

Nigel is the managing editor of the Red Ferret, as well as a freelance columnist for the Sunday Times newspaper in London. Loves tech and fancies himself as a bit of a futurist, but then don’t we all?

Nigel – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


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