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“Bug” In the Spotlight

Last night New York City startup Bug Labs hosted an introductory meetup at Punch Restaurant‘s upstairs Wined Up bar.

Bug Labs founder Peter Semmelhack describes the company thus: “Bug Labs is developing BUG, an open, modular, consumer electronics web services + hardware platform. Designed for the general audience, not just the technically inclined, Bug seeks to bring to the world of hardware gadgets what the Internet, open source, XML and web services have brought to the world of software and media.”

Most of the online action is on the company blog, but last night Bug Labs showed its hardware publicly for the first time. Its product is a modular, Lego-like collection of hardware components and software infrastructure that you can attach together to dynamically build specialty devices to service the long tail of product users’ needs.

Marketing chief Jeremy showed off three circuit boards plugged together, in size and shape totaling about the same as a video iPod. The base board contained the primary Bug device, while the other two, each half the length of the first, were an accelerometer/motion detector and a camera, respectively. Plugged together in this configuration, Jeremy held in his hand a security monitoring system.

When product launch occurs in the fall, many other modules will be available, including GPS, cell phone, LCD screens, keyboard and more. Bug Labs will target hackers and hobbyists first, and then when a collection of third-party applications have added consumer value to the product ecosystem, they’ll be able to make sales to normal consumers too.

With a few other organizations making moves into the world of open source or modular hardware, including OpenMoko, the OLPC, Drobo, and (sort of) the Nokia Maemo platform, it looks like a new, dynamic and fascinating market segment could be on its way to emergence. Let’s hope it brings the enormous benefits of open source communities to the hardware world that FOSS has brought to software already!

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