The name unfortunately brings to mind the Furby, that electronic talking owl/hamster/rat that became the must-have toy of the 1998 holiday shopping season. But although the Chumby is also furry, that's where the similarities end.
Introduced at Foo Camp, a campout for geeks that took place over the weekend, the Chumby is an inexpensive, Wi-Fi-enabled LCD screen that displays Flash-based applications--weather, time, RSS feeds, pictures, movies or whatever you can dream up, according to O'Reilly Radar.
The Chumby, which will sell for $150 at an unknown future date, is designed to be hacked on the inside and out. It's all open source, and the makers have released the source code and list of parts to encourage users to create and sell small applications or widgets made expressly for the device. The back of the Chumby is fuzzy. One of the creators apparently encouraged owners to have at it with a seam ripper and personalize it.
The Chumby has a 3.5-inch LCD touch screen with LED backlighting, a 266MHz processor and 32MB of DRAM, stereo speakers, a headphone jack and a sensor that automatically dims the backlight. It also connects to your home wireless network. So once you've registered your new toy online, you can get a set of free widgets. Apparently there's also a subscription service in the works that will provide more customized apps.
The Chumby site was overloaded at the time of this posting, and the group claims this is due to a huge spike in interest. Fans are trumpeting its Web 2.0-ish qualities and community focus, but at its core, the Chumby is eerily similar to a slew of failed easy-to-use, Web-enabled information devices. (See 3Com's Audrey and the Microsoft SPOT watch.) When it becomes more than a prototype, time will tell how many will open their pockets to cuddle up to the Chumby.