Let’s admit it; our mobile phones are so much a part of our lives that we just have to bring them everywhere we go. However, there ARE those times when we wish the darn thing would not disturb us, like in a high-profile meeting or having an intimate dinner with someone special. Dr. Stefan Marti of MIT’s Media Labs thinks he’s hit on the solution with his Cellular Squirrel.
The cute stuff-toy looking gadget is the latest prototype of an Autonomous Interactive Intermediary, which is a software and robotic agent that helps mobile phone users manage their calls.
Here’s how it works. Cellular Squirrel is actually a Bluetooth gadget that uses a remote desktop computer for its ‘call screening calculations’ (future models will be autonomous). When you receive a call on your mobile device, the Squirrel will ‘wake up’ and start ‘talking’ to the caller as part of efforts to know what the call is all about. Here’s the cool part – the Squirrel will measure the tone of the voice of the caller, compare the caller’s number to a pre-set list of numbers belonging to ‘friends’ and try to pick up keywords in your current conversation around it and compare that with what the caller wants to discuss. If all these factors indicate that you should be disturbed, then the Cellular Squirrel will start moving its body. The more it moves, the more urgent the call is.
If you think the call should be taken, you can squeeze one of its upper paws and take the call via a Bluetooth speakerphone. If you don’t want to take the call, squeeze one of Cellular Squirrels lower paws (I think you should be able to just punch it in the head) and the call will be sent to voicemail. The same thing happens if Squirrel determines by itself that the call is not important.
It would be a great novelty item, but would you really want to bring a pet squirrel an extremely important meeting? Sure it can be integrated into other less furry devices, but then again, it would be funny to explain why you’re walking around with a squirrel.