An intuitive, tangible interface for smart homes
We’ve seen a number of home automation hubs that try to tie all of your disparate smart devices into a single mobile app, essentially turning your smartphone into a universal remote. But as those apps get increasingly bloated, a new trend is emerging: products that offload universal smart home control into a special-purpose, tactile gadget.
The latest in this vein is Cube, which springs from the imagination of German design firm Family of the Arts. It’s a compact black box that users can rotate, shake, spin, tap and swipe to activate context-sensitive controls for various home systems.
Each of Cube’s touch-sensitive faces controls a different part of the home — lighting, heating and cooling, music and media, and so on. Pixelated black-and-white icons glow on each of the facets, and whichever one is on top is currently active. When the music face is up, for instance, giving Cube a firm shake changes the song, while turning it like a knob changes the volume. Flip it to show the lighting face, and that same knob-like gesture dims the lights.
With Bluetooth proximity sensors added to light switches and wall outlets, Cube can be aware of which room it’s in and limit its commands to nearby devices accordingly. As you carry it around the house, you’ll always have control over the parts of the home that matter at the moment, while leaving the rest undisturbed.
By combining intuitive gestures with whole-home integration, Cube is an attractive alternative to app-based controls — and it leaves your smartphone free to do other things. Unfortunately, so far it’s only a concept. But Family of the Arts tells Postscapes that it is actively seeking a partner among the established smart home players in hopes of bringing Cube to market.
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