Friday, December 21, 2007

Bug Labs: Electronic Lego blocks

 Bug Labs


Ever wanted a set of electronic components that you could plug together just like LEGO blocks to build a final device? One can do it with computers and plug n play peripherals, but why not with your camera or GPS system.

For example: If you had a digital camera and a little later you decide that you are sick and tired of finding the USB cable every time you need to download the images. Instead of going out and buying a new digital camera which is WiFi compatible, why not be able to plug-in a module that gives your camera that capability. In the same way - if you are going on a world tour and you would like to have your images auto geo-tagged as and when you take your pictures - it would be cool if you could attach a component that gives your camera GPS capability.

The list is endless - you could remove the digital camera module and attach a touch screen module and voila you would have a PDA. Or you could attach a GPRS module and instead of using WiFi hotspots you could be constantly connected via cellphone towers. (The company doesn't seem to have plans of a GPRS module just yet - but I am sure they will release one as soon as the product takes off).

According to the company:

BUG is an open source, web-enabled, modular software + hardware platform.

Bug on the Maker blog

The main module of the Bug is a Linux embedded computer. The first modules that are going to be available are a digital camera, GPS, motion sensor and a touch screen. Going forward - they are actually going to add a teleporter module (hopefully it will teleport you around the universe without leaving your clothes behind).

The company bills its product as an open source device. Not sure if this means that others will have the schematics to build and connect their own devices, or is it only as far as creating software that can talk to the company's devices. The device has a SDK called DragonFly which can be leveraged to write software to work with the BUG. The SDK is in JAVA and the company may possibly provide tools to allow for easy software creation using the Eclipse IDE. The SDK is available right now and one can create applications (not sure how much you can do without the actual device to play with)


A list of open source software that the company uses is available at:

Being an open source project - what this means is that by the time the product hits market shelves, there should be a considerable list of plugins that one could download to their BUG device. This is important because usually when a device ships it comes with a bare minimum set of applications. But once users are given the ability to create apps for the device - it normally means that you will get apps that are actually useful to you. As an example, say you pickup the touch screen, which makes your BUG into a PDA. With the touch screen you may get a simple ToDo list app. Now you might need a GPS navigation device - so you add the GPS module. Some user out there might have looked at the 2 modules and say - hey why not make the ToDo list location aware?! He could write the software and then your ToDo list could automatically pop up items based on your location.

The fact that they have made their platform open to other developers is definitely a very cool thing.

As the store is not yet open - I am not sure what the cost of the device is going to be or its add on modules. One model that the company could use to supplement its income is to have a store front on its site where developers could sell their creations to other BUG users and the company could make a percentage of the sales (a la BugBay). In addition if they add a GPRS module - they could provide the cellular data service and charge a subscription fee for it (constant revenue stream - which company doesn't like that!)

I can't wait to take this product and its accompanying SDK for a spin.


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