Connected Objects Music

Vinci is a smart headphone with a screen on the side

Apple’s removal of the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 was a truly divisive move. Some see it a company prescient about the longer-term industry trends while others label it a cash grab. No matter what it really is, consumers are left to figure out what to do next. With the Vinci smart headphones, the choice is pretty easy.

The Vinci over the ear headphone is an internet-connected pair of Hi-Fi cans embedded with an AI-powered personal assistant (ala Amazon’s Alexa) to help facilitate a wide array of functionality. Users can interact with Vinci using taps and swipes on either of its colorful screens on either side or by simply using voice. Musically, Vinci’s AI continually learns about user preferences to recommend new songs, fine tune old playlists, or add a soundtrack to a workout session based on heart rate and pace. No matter the situation, though, the Vinci produces high-quality, immersive 3D sound and pairs it with 28 db of intelligent active noise canceling that still lets in important sounds to keep users safe and aware.

Maker/Development Technology

Alpha 2 robotic companion aims to be part of your family, doesn’t need a car seat

Previous campaigns JIBO and Buddy have shown how crowdfunding platforms are perfect vehicles to bring the dream of helpful robot companions to life. This time, company UBTech is hoping its bipedal Alpha 2 will not only catch backers’ attentions but also be an integral part of their lives too.

Boasting 20 joints that replicate human motion, Alpha 2 is an humanoid robot created by UBTech that’s all charm. Standing 17″ tall and weighing in at five pounds, Alpha 2’s programming offers the entire family a wide array of features to make daily living a little easier.


Your kids will fill the brain of the creepy Ohbot2 robot head

Introducing young learners to concepts of coding and robotics are noble efforts, increasingly becoming more necessary as time passes with society’s growing dependency on technology.

Ohbot’s Ohbot2 is a robotic face with seven different servo motors that control parts such as its eyeballs and mouth. The creators envision its use a personable interface kids will instantly attach to and then program using Ohbot2’s simple, graphical programming interface. It may not be C+ or Python, but that’s not important: Ohbot2’s use in classrooms with young learners gives kids the fun, engaging opportunity to see how code affects real objects rather than regulating it to abstract environments.


Musio robot may be music to the ears of AI fans, kids

The most widely-used personal assistant application remains Apple’s Siri. But, as many iPhone and iPad users know, it is pretty difficult to engage in a true conversation with Siri because its software can only do what it’s been programmed to do by Apple.

Musio is a cross between a robotic toy along the lines of Sony’s long-discontined AIBO and a personal assistant. The Android-based device features artificial intelligence and was designed to engage and grow with its user, while its Arduino-compatible board enables the device to do whatever the user asks, its maker says. It is being fielded in three separate versions, each featuring a different brain.

Smart Home

Channel your inner Joaquin Phoenix with Cubic AI assistant

Movies like “Iron Man” and “Her” have posited the idea of digital AIs that exist beyond the borders of their physical confines. They present a conception of technology where we could command these systems to do things for us, whether it be to set up a room to the user’s liking to simply ordering some pizza. With each passing year, what was once incredibly far-fetched technology has become more and more commonplace, and the team behind the Cubic has stuffed it all in a box and mix it in with lots of smarts.

The Cubic is a humble looking, Wi-Fi enabled box that houses a personal AI bursting with intelligence and charm. Its multi-topic conversational system allows users to naturally respond to jokes, news, text messages, and phone calls. From the current weather and traffic time in the morning, keeping users up-to-date with emails and news throughout the day, or preparing a user’s home by controlling connected home automation devices on their way back, Cubic is incredibly versatile and presented to be effortless to use.

The device boasts a 25ft range of voice recognition at home but Cubic doesn’t end when users leave: a wearable Power Badge takes Cubic with you so that users can constantly stay informed and have total control over apps like Dropbox and Facebook with or without headphones. It can also learn: Cubic will adapt to a user’s humor, and users can teach Cubic to critique movies and even differentiate types of liquors. The $195 Cubic is expected to be delivered by November 2015 provided the campaign reaches its $100,000 goal.

The Cubic bears a more than passing resemblance to Ubi and Amazon’s Echo, but is looking to provide more than a home-based, voice-controlled device but rather an AI assistant that can be of help all day. It’s hard to believe the Cubic works as well as it’s being presented, though, as many companies have been trying to nail down voice recognition for years and still have trouble recognizing basic phrases. Cubic is promising in theory, so it would be a shame if the team behind it dropped the ball.

Smart Home

EmoSPARK melds AI, cloud intelligence in a small cube

The Premise. The movie Her raises many questions about artificial intelligence (AI) in relation to human interaction. As technology grows smarter, a more capable AI becomes almost inevitable as humans continue to grow closer and closer to creating a computer program that can think and interact like a human.

The Product. The EmoSPARK is one of the first products that claims the capability to read human emotions and learn from its environment in order to improve its interactions with people. It allows people to interact with it via conversation, music and visual media through an Android-powered program that uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. By reacting to human emotions and interaction, the EmoSPARK can enhance the stimuli it receives to boost that emotion and make interaction seem natural—as if with another human being. It has access to over 39 million topics and can be paired with smart devices to make integration that much easier.

The Pitch. While maybe not as advanced and alluring as Scarlett Johansson’s voice in “Her,” the video shows that the EmoSPARK can read and understand human emotions—and subsequently translate that into a response that constitutes normal interaction. It can be used by people of all ages, and it can even be used as an Internet learning tool with its wide access to information on the web. The creators have held out two stretch goals at $200,000 for home automation and a Windows Phone app and $300,000 for compatibility with crowdfunding alumni Webee and Ninja Sphere.

The Perks. The EmoSPARK cube costs $224 for early adopters, and it will be delivered by May 2014. For an extra $50, the IP camera that gives it eyes and ears at home is worth getting as well if you’re investing in the cube. If you’re willing to drop a cool $9,000, you can claim a day with CEO in EmoSPARK’s London office as well as a cube signed by the whole team.

The Potential. The idea screams potential, but unfortunately, the product doesn’t. The EmoSPARK definitely takes steps toward being a more capable AI unit capable of human interaction, but the it still hasn’t reached the natural cadence of human interaction. EmoSPARK bills itself as the firat AI home console but it’s certainly not the first cloud-based device sitting waiting for your ambient commands. The Ubi recently began shipping to backers since being funded on Kickstarter in 2012. Nonetheless, the EmoSPARK may be a stepping stone worth taking a look at as we continue to strive toward that goal.