Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Danny Hillis and Maxwell Smart

Wired has a piece about Applied Minds. Thinking Machines founder Danny Hillis clearly has a fondness for "Get Smart"; there's the phone booth as a hidden passage, the goofy passphrases, and even a Cone of Silence.

Co-founder Danny Hillis escorts me down a hallway that dead-ends into an old-fashioned red phone booth. The phone rings. He places receiver to ear.

"The blue moon jumps over the purple sky," he says, and hangs up.

Suddenly, the booth becomes a door, swinging out to reveal a vast, open room filled with engineers, gadgets and big ideas.

It's as if Willy Wonka's chocolate factory just yawned wide to welcome us. Only here, all the candy plugs in.

"This is where the secret laboratories are," Hillis says.

To our left, two employees chat behind a desk. Their conversation is a burbling, unintelligible stream. It's as if someone poured their words into a blender, then hit "puree."

That's because their speech has been scrambled by Babble, a gadget designed by Applied Minds, with office furniture company Herman Miller, for creating sonic privacy in workspaces without walls.

(John Battelle had a similar piece about Applied Minds a few days earlier.)