Some people will go to great lengths to enable their Twitter addiction. Japan created an entirely new species. The Twitter Animal, or Twimal, from Takara TOMY is a cute little blob that will read incoming tweets to you so you don’t have to go through all the tiring effort of checking your Twitter feed yourself. The small USB powered device will vocalize your tweets, the tweets you follow, up to three different hashtags, and various other feeds. Available in either white (female) or blue (male), Twimal has a pretty decent reading voice, and you can modulate speed or pitch to give it up to ten different variations which can be connected to one of the categories of tweet you specify. Not bad for just [Y] 2480 (~$30). Recently launched in Japan on March 31st, you can get a taste of Twimal’s capabilities in the commercial below (sorry it’s only available in Japanese). While I’m sure you could rig up a system on your laptop to do the same thing for free, Twimal shows our growing fascination with pulling the digital world into our physical reality.
[Anybody want to explain to me why he’s eating a green sandwich? Thanks.]
In many ways, Twimal is only something you find in Japan. (Literally this is true as I don’t know any retailers selling the product elsewhere.) Twitter is huge there, as is their love for small cute blobs that speak with charming human voices. To add a layer of meta-recursiveness to the whole affair, they even gave the device its own Twitter feed. But Twimal is more than a taste of Japan WTF-ary. A personal assistant that can help you manage your social media is certainly going to appeal to people all over the globe. Taking that personal assistant and making them a physical creature…that’s actually fairly ingenious. Afterall, this isn’t simply a generic text to speech device – it’s a face to put on your social network. The whole reason we dive into these bottomless pits of 140 character exchanges is ostensibly so we can better communicate with people we care about. We don’t want a disembodied voice, we want a socially meaningful interaction with something that’s in the room with us. We want presence, and to some degree Twimal has that. In the future, I expect we’ll see more critters like Twimal that vocalize a wide range of social media sites, perhaps with a wider variety of voices and a greater selection in the physical avatar. When they have a dead looking parrot that can read my Facebook status updates in the voice of Monty Python’s Michael Palin I’ll definitely buy one. Until then, try not to hurt yourselves while reading your morning tweets.