Availabot is a physical representation of presence in Instant Messenger applications. Availabot plugs into your computer by USB, stands to attention when your chat buddy comes online, and falls down when they go away. Its a presence-aware, peripheral-vision USB toy and because the puppets are made in small numbers on a rapid-prototyping machine, it can look just like you.


Availabot makes it easy to see when a particular friend of yours is available for instant messaging, even when youre not sitting in-front of your computer. Rather than showing up on your screen, it shows availability as a physical object in the world. That means that you can move the puppet out of view when you dont want to be distracted, watch out for it when youre working on other tasks, and have a background awareness of your friends from the corner of your eye.

Because Availabot works entirely over USB, you can plug in as many puppets as you have USB ports (or friends on your IM buddylist). There are no extra leads for power, and no hidden boxes. Currently, Availabot works with iChat on Mac OS X 10.4but were looking to extend it to other similar apps on the Mac (like Skype) and, in the future, to Windows.

Availabot stores the IM details of the friend it represents in the puppet itself. That means you can buy a few, load them with your own IM screenname and service, and give them out like business cards to your closest contacts.

Each Availabot is customised and thats what we really love about it. To make the puppets, we use a combination of standard body-parts and rapid-form prototyping. This means that the head and any other parts of the puppet can be made to look just like you. Well see how far we can take this in the commercial world.