Android is so much more than a “smartphone platform,” or at least it will be if half of what’s being shown off at Google I/O makes it from prototype stage to full-on shipping product status. Being a developers’ conference and not a trade show, I/O doesn’t have a “show floor” to walk around, but the Sandbox area was like a mini-show floor, with apps, prototypes, and robots, robots, robots on hand to spark developers’ imaginations and show what’s possible using Android on phones, tablets, and Google TV boxes alike.
I took a walk around the sandbox and took some footage of some of the goings on – like a “Wish you were here!” video postcard. The giant labyrinth is cool, the Hasbro robots have potential as a neat/creepy toy, and Farmbox is one of those things that needs a really good marketing/PR company to turn it into something potentially really, really neat. But it’s the new Open Accessory Development Kit (ADK) that has me most intrigued. Come July (fingers crossed), an $80 circuit board combined with a free app will allow tinkerers large and small to hook just about anything with a USB port up to an Android device and innovate, innovate, innovate away. From game controllers to robots, exercise bikes to microscopes, and who knows what else, ADK could usher in a 21st Century-style era of garage hacking in a cloud-enabled, global data sharing kind of way.
I mean, think about the Farmbox concept for a second: The ability to share “grow recipes” with other famers, perfect the optimal blend of water, food, light, etc. for growing your own vegetables, and then use a smartphone peripheral to monitor and analyze/share data on your own crops? Very cool. Now apply that concept to pretty much any industry or hobby you can think of. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but a low-cost, cloud-connected computer (Android phone/tablet) connected to a world of hackers concocting their own potentially low-cost hardware/software peripherals to leverage the platform? This is where I get excited about “open source.” Or am I crazy?