Wireless Gadgets for Business and Fun The future of wireless extends to gadgets far beyond the cell phone, from toys to refrigerators with built-in Internet access. Some of the gadgets are for business applications. Nokia's new device combines e-mail, Internet, music, movies and GPS. Others, like the Chumby, are purely fun.
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Wireless Gadgets for Business and Fun

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Wireless Gadgets for Business and Fun

Wireless Gadgets for Business and Fun

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

This week, NPR is talking about cell phones and how they're evolving. Connections to the Internet are one way. Cyrus Farivar reports.

CYRUS FARIVAR: Here at Berkeley Espresso(ph), you'll always find tons of people tapping away at their laptops. They're here using the cafe's free Wi-Fi. But in recent months, a new generation of Wi-Fi devices has cropped up. Now, there are phones that will also get you on the Internet. Apple's new iPhone, for instance, has Wi-Fi.

Paul Cheng, co-founder of Blymee, a new Bay Area startup, shows me his new Wi-Fi-enabled Nokia N95-3. It was released in the U.S. in October. Cheng can take live video on his phone and immediately put it up on the Internet.

Mr. PAUL CHENG (Co-Founder, Blymee): We'll just log in to the Web site there. And I'm going to launch this. I'm going to broadcast the video, ok? Now, plug in. And as soon as the little feed starts, you'll see a little notification. There you are. And you'll see live video over the Web.

FARIVAR: So this is the future, right?

Mr. CHENG: So now you can have live broadcasts on your mobile phone. You're walking down the street, that's pretty cool, huh?

FARIVAR: Having the Internet on your phone could be useful. But what about Wi-Fi in your kitchen? Earlier this year, appliance maker Whirlpool released a new refrigerator called the Centralpark Connection. At first glance, it looks like a normal fridge, but it has a screen on it that serves as a digital picture frame.

Richard Yoshita(ph), a customer service rep at this Best Buy store in Emeryville, says that you can display photos from a memory card.

Mr. RICHARD YOSHITA (Customer Service Representative, Best Buy): Other options that you have with this unit is that it has Wi-Fi ability, so it can connect to the Internet and you can actually stream photos directly, even like the news and other information directly from the Internet.

FARIVAR: Having the Internet on your fridge may seem a bit silly, but it may not be as ridiculous as having Wi-Fi in a toy. But here's the Chumby, a small, almost kid-sized computer with a screen.

Jay Morthy(ph) is a software engineer who lives in San Francisco. He bought an early model of the Chumby.

Mr. JAY MORTHY (Software Engineer): So it's about the size of a kid's football and fuzzy - not fuzzy, but soft with a leather cover. And it's, I mean, it's basically designed to be picked up and squeezed.

FARIVAR: Most of the time, Morthy keeps it by his bed as an alarm clock. But sometimes, he keeps it in the living room and lets it cycle through various applications that use the wireless connection to display information off the Internet, like weather, news, and even when the next bus will arrive. He even plays music simply by plugging in an iPod.

Mr. MORTHY: It's not bad, right? I mean, this is actually the first time that I've tried this. And I didn't know really how to do this, but you can tell I just picked it up, I plugged in the iPod cable and it shows up like that. That's pretty cool.

FARIVAR: If you're eager to get your hands on this lovable $180 computer, you'll have to wait just a little while longer. It's due out next month when it will join the ranks of half a billion Wi-Fi devices worldwide that have been shipped to date.

For NPR News, I'm Cyrus Farivar.

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