What is it?
A glorious re-imagining of the radio-frequency identification wireless technology that's already behind sund mundane things as work ID swipecards and Oyster travel cards. It's a USB device that reads RFID, making everyday tasks more fun.
What does it do?
Bear with us, because this is more exciting than it sounds - it lets you assign computing tasks to physical objects. Say, every morning you sit at your PC with a cuppa to read the gadget news. By sticking a litlle RFID tag to your coffe cup, Stuff.tv will pop up automicatically when you put your cup near the RFID reader.
That's a basic example. Here's a more complex one - little Timmy comes home from school. Your PC picks up the tag on his keys and emails you at work to say that Timmy is home safe. You can also assign multiple actions to one object.
What can I use it with?
The hardware and the software for Mir:ror is easy to use and cutesy, coming from the same team that developed the world's first wi-Fi rabbit, Nabaztag. The Mir:ror RFID reader comes with three stick-on tags (Ztamps) and two mini-Nabaztag rabbits called Nano-ztags. A Nabaztag/tag rabbit (£90) can also act as an RFID reader.
The software for deciding what a single RFID tag will do is simple to operate, although some of the apps (weather report, particularly) were a little light on information. "Foggy", it said.
The best of RFID gadgets and a real showcase for what it can do. 4 stars
Works with Intel Macs and Windows PCs. 3 'Ztamp' tags and 2 Nano-ztag mini-rabbits included.
This system has a USB-connected reader like Mir:ror, but the Tikitags are more basic, being just a sticker with a tiny RFID chip stuck to the back of them. The software is also more basic - it has more of a geek community feel, with Tikitaggers suggesting and even developing their own applications to work with the product. While this potentially means thousands of apps, some of them are highly specialised and the amount of technical support is minimal.
Cheaper, but the hardward and software is less involving, unless you're keen to get involved in developing apps. 3 stars
Works with Intel Macs and Windows PCs. 10 tags included.
Why is this important?
Because it could lead to greater PC accessibility. The young, the old and the disabled could all potentially benefit from the use of 'smart objects'.
We can all become androids. Conspiracy theorists will foam over the idea of RFID chips implanted in the body (or just a Ztamp tag stumck to a watch strap) but we love the idea.
Because it's fun and cheap. And we all need more of those things, right?