Now that Google has, from a number of angles, pretty successfully created a sort of laissez faire, open source Project Xanadu (the grand dream of computer-use visionary Ted Nelson, which Wired once called the longest running vaporware project in history, a universal information system envisioned by Nelson beginning in 1960 but never really practically implemented, and which, under one version of Nelson’s vision, would have been serviced by a “McDonalds-like” brick and mortar chain where people would go to buy information and research), it now turns its attention to the really big guns…
Next in the target sites… X10?
I refer, of course, to the open standard modular home automation system — which has been around almost as long. X10 was conceived and implemented first by Pico Electronics, a Scottish firm, in 1975, and devoted to a practical approach to domotics — the application of automation technologies to the home. In 1978 x10-enabled products began appearing in Radio Shack and other consumer electronic stores.
According to PC Magazine, who sent writers to the recent Google I/O conference to cover a wide range of Google’s activities, there was a lot of buzz about Android@Home, which has been described as no less than the future of Google’s enormously popular Android mobile operating system.
Android@Home, by contrast, will connect a user’s Android device to other appliances in the home via a suite of new services that will be released at an undisclosed future time. Examples of this include “Project Tungsten,” a wireless speaker system that can be synced via Android, as well as wireless light switches and other appliances. Lighting Science was also named as a partner, and will launch wireless lighting products to support Android@Home.
“We want to think of every device in your home as a connection to Android apps,” said Hugo Barra, product management director for Google, in the keynote.
I’ve been trying to make sense out of the potential for ‘home-sized’ slates like the iPad since it was introduced and the one use scenario that has remained in my mind one of the most promising applications of mid-size handheld tablet computers (slates or pads, if you will) beyond coffee table-ware has been that of a sort of media satellite and home entertainment center remote control. (Imagine a remote control to which you could stream the internet or video content… so you could browse the web while you’re watching the big idiot box, or send a slate along with junior so he can watch his favorite death metal videos in the privacy of his room. Better yet, get that boy a shrink.)
Once out of incubation, Android@Home will be open-sourced, according to Google, obviously hoping for the same sort of 3rd party market explosion we’ve seen with the Android (and, on the software side, with the iPhone and Android app markets). The system will be relatively low power but still have the bandwidth necessary to stream audio and video over it and will integrate with Google’s planned online music and video networks.
A demonstration of the latter was the ability to touch or ‘swipe’ an enabled CD to the Android@Home system and have it instantly added to the user’s cloud-based library. (This seems perilously close to the system that the old Mp3.com began to implement but which ran afoul of black letter law provisions of the Millennium Copyright Act that ended up opening Mp3.com to summary judgments that all but bankrupted the company, which was then sold to Universal Vivendi, who essentially dismantled it.)
According to PC Magazine:
“At Home is going to be huge,” said Richard Shim, a mobile analyst for DisplaySearch. “I think it’s something that’s very ambitious. It’s what I like to call the next level. Everyone now has this synchronization of data, where you put it in one place with multiple devices. The next step is controlling these different devices, and no one has been able to crack that nut.”