How are you going to control all those connected things in your house? A new German startup is crowdsourcing funds to make control as easy as turning over a small cube.
Called m!Qbe and pronounced em-cube, the product from Blue Asterisk UG is targeted initially at controlling Philips Hue connected bulbs, one of several new intelligent lamps. Support for additional connected devices – possibly including stereos and coffeepots — will be available through software updates.
A different symbol on each of the cube’s six sides represents a different control function that the user can set, including on/off, color, brightness, and so on. You place the cube face down on an icon to use that function, although some icons can also be touch-controlled.
You can also add a timer to any function so that, for instance, the lights turn out after you’ve gone to bed. Short touches on an icon allow you to switch between lights and then select the one to adjust, while a long touch can transfer a setting to other lights. Shaking the cube creates a random lighting setup.
The m!Qbe, available in black and silver, comes with an inductive charger and a small m!Base disc for communication. Up to three cubes talk to one m!Base, and then the m!Base communicates with the controlled devices through a cable or the Wi-Fi option. An m!App, for any device with a browser, is used to assign a function to a cube icon or, in case you want to see how many times you compulsively changed colors, to generate usage stats.
The company started its funding campaign on Indiegogo at the end of March and has so far raised nine percent toward its goal of 120,000 euros (about U.S. $166,000).
If all electrical devices in your home or business have intelligence and connectivity, the easiest control will likely win out. You’ll be able to use an app on your smartphone, of course, but, even if those apps work for everything all the time, do you really want to carry your iPhone literally everywhere around the house?
A cube on a coffee table is certainly one option, although only usage will tell if flipping, short touches, and reconfiguring are the most natural interactions. Voice or gesture could be most natural, but where do all those sensors live? Guess you’re back to being chained to your smartphone.
Or you could just get up and switch off the light.
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