E-Squirt, key software powering CoolTown — an HP Labs project envisioning the future — is now in alpha prototype release and can be downloaded free at the CoolTown Web site.
CoolTown is a world in the not-too-distant future where every person, place and thing can connect and communicate via the pervasive, open standards of the Web. In this world, Web appliances and E-services are at your service.
E-Squirt helps make CoolTown possible. In concept, the software allows PDAs, mobile phones, wristwatches and other devices to access rich Web content and services by wirelessly sending, or squirting, a URL pointer.
The PDA, watch or phone doesn’t need to be connected to the Web or even to a network. It uses infrared (IR) to squirt the URL to a printer, projector, PC, DVD player — any device that can display rich multimedia content and has Internet access or is networked to something that does. If the receiving device lacks IR capability, IR ports can be purchased as accessories.
Imagine that you’re making a pitch to a business prospect. No need to carry a laptop, cables or any other cumbersome hardware. Just put your presentations on the Web and load the URLs onto your cell phone.
At the prospect’s office, you squirt your presentation to an LCD projector appliance, which then displays it, PowerPoint slides and all.
The E-squirt software also allows you to create and interact with CoolTown Beacons. A Beacon is a simple device that broadcasts a URL wirelessly. Your personal device can receive beaconed URLs, and either fetch Web pages directly over a wireless network or E-Squirt them at another Web appliance.
Suppose you’re in a CoolTown music store, and you spot several CDs that look appealing, but you have no idea if you’ll like the music. None of the CDs is available in the store’s listening station. Luckily, you’re in CoolTown, where every CD has a URL.
Simply point your personal communicator at Beacons and collect URLs for the CDs that interest you. When you get home, just squirt the URLs to your PC (or Web-enabled CD player) and enjoy the sample sounds. If you like what you hear, you can buy the CDs online. In this way, the combination of Beacons and E-Squirt allows you to “bookmark” Web content and e-services in the physical world.
“With E-Squirt, you can leave your laptop at home,” says Jeff Morgan, the scientist who thought up E-Squirt.
So why give it away for free?
If it’s free, E-Squirt is more likely to proliferate and more likely to be incorporated into devices, explains Morgan. “We want to give people the opportunity to play with the software and get the idea.”