Feeds

MIT invents computer that runs away

User friendly

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Boost IT visibility and business value

MIT has taken the unfriendly computer interface to its natural conclusion: and created a computer that runs away from you.

We've all had experiences with user interface elements that run away from us: toolbars in Windows, or the drive icons on the Mac OS X desktop, for example. But "Clocky" goes all the way - it's an alarm clock that has wheels. If you hit the snooze button, "Clocky" rolls away and hides. To make life doubly difficult, it will try and hide in a new place every day. And if you live in a 1970s sitcom, it poses a third challenge. Since it's covered in thick brown nylon shagpile carpet, Clocky might never be found. For now, it's simply described as an "academic" exercise, but a fully-blown fugitive PC can't be too far away.

Clocky: inspired by kittens

Inspired by kittens: Clocky

It comes from - where else? - Boston's own version of Disneyland, MIT's Media Lab. If nothing else, Clocky should help restore the Lab's reputation as the world's most useless "research laboratory". Ten years of corporate gladhanding - the lab was entirely privately funded - have added nothing of note to the study of computer science, or even an iPod. But then the institution was never designed to. So long as the money kept rolling in, and the lab could produce a supply of fatuous, gimmicky demos for lazy media, everyone was happy. The lab's founder Nicholas Negroponte even helped start a glossy gadget catalog to help plug the demos: Wired magazine. Such an institution was bound to attract flakes, who obliged with Talking Oven Mitts, Chairs With Attitude, and all manner of cuddly bots and "responsive environments" seemingly designed solely to amuse Ralph Wiggum.

All good, clean, harmless fun, you might think. But research money - both public and private - is a precious and dwindling resource, and there are many basic problems computer science must address. Good scientists are pessimistic people who think deeply about how these problems can be fixed. There are many problems that must be fixed if people are to trust technology. While the United States falls further behind its main rival in science funding and education, it's also developed a seriousness deficit and a frivolity surplus. That's bad timing.

Take for example, the inspiration for Clocky.

"I was in part inspired by kittens I've had that would bite my toes every morning," confides Clocky's designer Gauri Nanda.

Clocky? Clucky, more like. The girl sounds positively broody. ®

Related stories

Strength through pessimism! Keeping your stuff safe
Media Lab Europe goes titsup
Robosnail: Science or sex toy?
Recent RoTM™ stories...

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
MEN WANTED to satisfy town full of yearning BRAZILIAN HOTNESS
'Prettier, better organised, more harmonious than if men were in charge'
Cops baffled by riddle of CHICKEN who crossed ROAD
'Officers were unable to determine Chicken's intent'
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
Drunkards warned: If you can't walk in a straight line, don't shop online, you fool!
Put it away boys. Cover them up ladies. Your credit cards, we mean
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Murder accused DIDN'T ask Siri 'how to hide my roommate'
US court hears of cached browser image - not actual request
Chomp that sausage: Brits just LOVE scoffing a Full Monty
Sales of traditional brekkie foods soar as hungry folk get their mitts greasy
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?