Is Nabaztag about calm computing?

Just had a quick chat with frederic (one of our new lab colleague) about the fact that the notion of "disappearing computer" or Weiser's "calm technology" is more and more criticized. Computers were supposed to become invisible and information would then becomes ambient. He took the example of the Nabaztag, the wifi-rabbit who is a physical ambient visualization device in the form of a bunny rabbit. Among the rabbit features, there are different capabilities such as displaying several live datasets retrieved through a WiFi Internet connection (weather forecast, news...) AND messages sent by people.

There are now 50,000 nabaztags sold approximately according to french newspaper Libération. It seems that the usage study of the rabbits showed interesting results: people are more interested and rather used the message feature (sending messages, listening to certain nabcast; that is to say podcasts for nabaztag) than the ambient information flow. Also, based on the server usage, they found that people first subscribe to lots of channels and then tick them off (every interaction with the rabbit goes through their server, well normally, some people can always create their own proxy server).

What this seem to mean is that in this context (I won't generalize), interruptions-based interaction worked more than fluid and calm information flows. The computer (or at least the computing artifact) does not disappear that much and is then disruptive. This is the function used by Fabien's group at the second blogject workshop: a “spokespet” for blogjects. An ambient device moderating and intermediating between a user and his/her blogjects.

Why do I blog this? because I am interested (as a researcher) in the user experience of pervasive computing. I found these usage trends interesting. Of course, one example does not mean that it's a failure but it's an interesting debate that emerged from this user study.