[FoRK] Commercial version of Dourish's hacked Barney

Stephen D. Williams sdw
Thu Nov 17 13:18:29 PST 2005

Doesn't anyone else keep thinking "A young ladies illustrated primer" 
every time something like this is discussed?


Ken Meltsner wrote:
> Several years ago, PARC's Paul Dourish (now at the center of
> FoRK-based computer science, UCIrvine) hacked a Microsoft-driven
> Barney doll and turned it into a remotely controlled network
> peripheral (SWEETPEA [1]).  CHI paper reviewers were split as to
> whether the effort constituted "real" research, or was just a good
> hack.
> A French company is now selling a simpler (but commercial) version:
> http://www.nabaztag.com/vl/FR/index.jsp
> " I'm a newborn bunny, one of a unique species of intelligent, smart
> objects. I'm 23 cm tall, I wriggle my ears, I sing, I talk and my body
> lights up and pulsates with hundreds of colours. Thanks to Wi-Fi
> technology, I'm always connected to the Internet."
> See also the cool folks at Ambient Technology[2], which sells
> pager-controlled "orbs" and analog dashboard dials.
> Ken
> [1] Software Tools for Programmable Embodied Agents:
> http://www.dourish.com/barney/
> [2] http://www.ambientdevices.com [not responding right now -- must be
> a bit too ambient out)
> http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/electronic/5da2/ The original Orb
> http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/electronic/767e/ Weather display version
> http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/electronic/732d/ Pre-production
> analog meter version
> Excerpt:
> "...Microsoft Barney is a plush purple dinosar that can talk, sing,
> and play games. Barney can also be controlled by an RF device that
> plugs into your television set or PC and can pick up instructions
> striped on the TV signal or encoded in the software to control the
> child's toy. In many ways, Barney offers even more potential that
> Barbie since Barney also has input sensors (in his paws and a
> light-sensor behind his eyes) and can move his limbs.
> "... With a couple of Barney dolls, a PC, a pile of Barney
> applications and a smart student intern, we set about experimentally
> determining the protocol by which Barney was controlled. By the end of
> the summer, after much work, we had a student who could sing all the
> Barney songs backwards, and a pile of software.
> "The end result is the 'Barney Protocol Stack,' a set of software
> components that applications can use to drive Barney. The basic Barney
> control mechanism is implemented as a Delphi component. It can be
> driven directly via an on-screen control panel, to move Barney around,
> play sound samples or read his sensors. Alternatively, it can listen
> on a network socket for remote control connections. The remote
> interface allows applications to be written that talk to a remote
> Barney server; you can telnet to Barney (which is more than I can do
> to my NT box). This network protocol level is wrapped up by a Java
> class called BarneyConnection, which offers facilities to move
> Barney's arms and legs and register to be informed when his sensors
> are activated.
> "Using the Barney Protocol Stack, we built a number of applications
> for Barney. Some were simply feedback applications, that would tell
> you the progess of activities such as printing your document. Some
> were monitoring applications that revealed the state of other systems,
> such as the current network status. Some were communicative
> applications, such as one which allowed two people to communicate
> through 'Barney semaphore...'"
> --
> Absolute power corrupts absolutely, but model train sets do a pretty
> good job as well
> -- 2/28/05, in a odd dream
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