Bookshelf Computer Wins Design Contest

At an international competition co-sponsored by Microsoft Corp two students from Purdue University won a prize for a new personal computer design that may change the way people watch movies, listen to music, play games and read magazines.

Named “Bookshelf” the new concept computer seeks to address some of the existing flaws in PC design including the issue of digital copyright and the standardisation of hardware, said graduate student Sungho “Oho” Son.

Graduate student Sungho “Oho” Son and visual and performing arts professor Scott Shim, partnered to create the computer, which has won the $50,000 Judge’s Award at an international competition co-sponsored by Microsoft Corp.

Son said, “Digital contents are downloaded through subscriptions, and then arranged in each hardware attachment, which are provided by the subscription’s service. The physical configuration of the unit permits users to visually navigate the categories of content as they do with books on a bookshelf.

“Up until now, personal computer designs seemed to be based on the issues of processing speed or performance rather than the user’s convenience,” Son added.

The personal computer physically resembles books on a shelf, with a 7-inch cube serving as the central processing unit (CPU), and book-shaped hardware attachments that link to it.

The hardware attachments containing multiple movies, games, or magazines will vary in width, but it’s other dimensions will be the same as the Bookshelf cube. As the hardware attachments are added, the Bookshelf becomes it’s own multimedia library custom-built by its owner. For example, users can watch movies by connecting to a television or computer monitor.

Son said the idea for the new design came while he was helping a friend move a large digital video disk collection last spring. He began researching designs and products available on the market, and he even spent time in cafes and libraries to observe laptop users.

“We didn’t just want to focus on the aesthetics, because we wanted to create a solid business model,” says Shim, adviser and team member for this project. “The basis of this concept is to provide a model that users can personalise and configure as part of their own system in this digital era.”

One of the greatest concerns in the computer and digital industries today is copyright, Shim says. Studies show that consumers are more likely to disregard the ownership and copyright of digital contents because such files lack the physical properties of format media such as compact discs (CDs), laser discs (LDs) or digital video discs (DVDs).

The design competition was launched last year by Microsoft and the Industrial Designers Society of America. Purdue University said it was now looking at opportunities to bring it’s new concept to the market.