Smart Home

Switch Bot pushes all the right buttons to control your switches

While running around from place to place each day, it’s common to forget to shut the lights or other electronic devices off at home. It would also be nice to shut those same devices off while one is just too tired to get out of bed.

Switch Bot is a small robotic device that attaches to other devices throughout the home or office and can wirelessly control all their switches and buttons. Control can be done while at the location or remotely using a smartphone or smartwatch.


Connected Objects

Bixi relies on gestures, lets you nix standard remote control

editors-choice-300x96The main problem with controlling music and GPS navigation in one’s car through traditional remote control devices is that it can be a dangerous distraction.

Bixi is a smart home and mobile device that allows users to control connected objects via simple hand gestures. The small smart controller can be placed on top of any surface in the home or car, or mounted just about anywhere as well. Bixi connects via Bluetooth Low Energy to smartphones, tablets and computers. The device is based around next-generation time-of-flight optical sensors, and works well in complete darkness.

Sensors/IoT Smart Home

Knocki lets you turn surfaces into a remote for anything

editors-choiceIt’s 3 a.m. and it would be nice to turn the TV and lights off without getting out of bed.

patent-claimedKnocki is a short, cylindrical device that attaches to any surface and transforms that surface into a touch interface that can control other devices. Users set Knocki to perform specific actions through a set number of taps. It uses non-acoustic sensor technology to detect gentle surface gestures that are even a short distance away, but Knocki also has the ability to filter out random vibrations. The device works anywhere there is Wi-Fi, and there is a companion Android and iOS app for it.


Input Smart Home

Nuimo dials up a gesture-sensing disc that can control anything in the smart home

editors-choiceWith the number of apps for it slowly increasing, the smartwatch has a shot at supplanting — or at least complementing — the smartphone as the control point for the connected world. But smartwatches aren’t really communal objects around the home and navigating them can often be laborious.

Nuimo seeks to address those issues. The simple control disc, available in a black or silver-white combination supports four main modes of interaction. Users can click them, rotate them, swipe their surface, or perform gestures above their surface. The last three gestures support multiple directions. The campaign video shows Nuimo responding to a music volume command by having the user raise her hand above the surface of the device.

Input Video Games

Bliss-Box 4-Play could create bliss for gamers

The ability to use a controller from any old videogame console to play a game on a computer is something quite a few gamers would undoubtedly enjoy. Being able to achieve that with multiple controllers without having to buy a USB adapter for each and every console port would be equally helpful.

Solving the problem is exactly what the Bliss-Box 4 Play achieves. The device is a universal console-to-USB controller adapter with four ports, thereby allowing up to four players to play at the same time with almost any controller of their choosing. Bliss-Box 4 Play uses low cost adapter cables that allow a variety of console controllers to plug into the 4-Play’s universal controller port. The product allows most videogame controllers to be used on any computer and does not require the installation of software drivers. A planned retail SKU is expected to cost $79.99 and is slated to ship in November. Its maker is hoping to raise $75,000 by May 4.

The Bliss-Box 4 Play adapter will likely appeal to a niche segment of gamers, though it remains to be seen how big that segment actually is. The device seems uniquely designed for console and computer gamers, or at the very least, gamers who used to love console games and now prefer to play on a computer.



FishBit monitors the aquarium while you’re away, makes sure water is safe

Aquariums can be difficult enough to maintain while home. They become even more difficult to take care of when the owner is traveling.

That’s why San Francisco company Current Labs developed FishBit, an aquarium monitoring system that includes an iOS and Android app, a monitor and a controller. There are rival products on the market, such as the Digital Aquatics Lifeguard Aquarium Monitor, but such products can be harder to set up. In addition, they supply similar data, but don’t help users understand what the information means.

The FishBit BETA monitor gets placed inside the aquarium and measures pH, salinity and temperature. It also monitors the controller for other aquarium equipment, including lighting and pumps, and the FishBit app that’s accessible via a smartphone or Web browser. Backers pledging at least $299 have been promised delivery of the system in June. Current Labs is looking to raise $5,000 on Kickstarter

FishBit is a promising product that is bound to appeal to many aquarium owners, but there are a few question marks. For instance, it’s not clear how many of the niche base of consumers this is aimed at will be willing to pay. Still, those who love their fish can count on FishBit for aquarium help.

Input Video Games

3DRudder sets new course for game control from head to toe

Controlling interactive games by hand has long been the industry standard. Kinect and other motion-sensing systems have come along in recent years to enable players to control games by using their entire bodies. The makers of a small number of recent devices, however, are looking to take game control down another route, sticking with traditional hand-controlled keyboards and joysticks, but adding hardware that adds the user’s feet to the mix.

An example of the latter is 3DRudder. Created by created by a team of French designers, the device is a foot-controlled navigation and motion controller that works in conjunction with existing PC games. The controller can emulate keyboard keys or a joystick and is intended to be a companion device for virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift The 3DRudder is used while seated and users just rest their feet on it while playing a game. To move forward, the user tilts the device forward; to move to the right, the user tilts the device to the right, and so on. The pedal enables users to also move up or down.

The device supports a maximum user weight of 286 pounds. To use the controller, the user must have a computer featuring an AMD Phenom or Intel Core i3, I5 or i7 processor, 2 GB of RAM, a USB 2.0 port and an Internet connection. Backers can get a 3DRudder for $110 as part of an early bird special and the device will ship in May. Its makers are looking to raise $50,000 on Indiegogo.

The controller is similar in concept to the somewhat more primitive-looking, Kickstarter-funded Stinky the Gaming Footboard. But both devices seem targeted at only a niche segment of the gamer market. The lack of current support for the Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony game consoles only underscores that. The 3DRudder’s makers are targeting 3D professionals including designers as one core audience for its device, and it seems best-suited for that crowd–unless Facebook’s ultra-bullish prediction for virtual reality headsets comes true.

Cell Phone Accessories Video Games

GenX Cardtroller flattens the controller, possibly mobile game opponents

Smartphones are packed with enough power to tackle a ton of applications or functions, including games. For those that grew up on the classics, however, gaming just doesn’t feel right without a controller to hold on to.

There have been plenty of peripherals released for phones that better simulate the controller-holding console game experience, but the major issue with them is that they require owners to carry one more thing around with them, or increase the size of their phone with a bulky case. Genx Cardtroller is a controller the size of a credit card that gamers can use to play on their phones without carrying around extra weight. When the power switch is slid into the on position, retractable shoulder buttons emerge from the top of the Genx, providing a place for fingers to rest and more ways to enjoy the action.

Genx also has internal memory inside, which the phone will treat as an external storage device for games, emulators, or save files. The Genx charges through micro-USB and can run wirelessly for two hours on a single charge. Inventor Joseph Nathan Cohorst is asking backers to pitch in $30,000 of funding for Genx. Backers can press start on this product for $35 in January 2015.

One of the issues that the campaign video brings up is that not being able to feel the buttons is a big part of why touch screen controls fail for many gamers. At the same time, the compact design of Genx means that the surface appears either flat or near flat, not addressing this problem. It’s a neat little accessory, especially when it comes to size, but ask anyone who’s played with a tiny controller, and they’ll tell you all about the hand cramps.


Cell Phone Accessories Video Games

Game Cover lets smartphone game controls slide

gamecoverMobile games have become an unignorable aspect of the gaming landscape. Players have access to thousands of games wherever they are, but the one complaint most people will always have is control. Game Cover is a thin Android gamepad that slides out from the side the way keyboards slide out on certain phones. Only 8mm thick, Game Cover fits any phone and provides plenty of buttons for precision control. Game Cover also works as a remote for media or camera controls. The thinness is great for compatibility, but long-term use may cause hand strain without something larger to grip onto while playing. Gamers can power up their phones with a Game Cover for €25.

Input Video Games

Trinity Magnum lets you virtually bring a gun to a keyboard and mouse fight

The Premise. Since video games became a cultural phenomenon, gamers and developers alike have craved ways to become a part of the game. After 20 years of stalling and failing to launch, virtual reality headsets are on the brink of becoming the next big thing in gaming. Now it’s time to gear up with the weapons to survive the games.

The Product. The Trinity Magnum is a motion controller designed to handle and feel like a gun, the kind of which one would find in any first-person shooter. With one- or two-handed grips, a trigger, two joysticks, and four buttons, the Magnum is intuitively compatible with a number of titles regardless of genre. With a 9-axis IMU and optical tracking using a compatible camera, 1:1 motion is offered with no drift and maximum accuracy.

The Pitch. The launch video for Trinity Magnum is exactly what those who follow the gaming industry should expect. With hands-on footage from Game Developer’s Conference and testimonials from developers and users alike, it’s easy to get excited by what’s on display. The campaign itself goes into more detail regarding compatibility and functionality, as well as existing partnerships for the device. TrinityVR are shooting for a goal of $60,000 to assemble and test the prototype before finalizing and shipping the Magnum.

The Perks. A Magnum Developer Kit can be scored for $80 and will be out by the end of the year complete with SDK and the gun itself, though a compatible camera will need to be picked up elsewhere. Higher tiers simply offer multiple Trinity Magnums.

The Potential. As is pointed out in the pitch video, virtual reality gaming is all about immersion, and a VR headset is just half the battle. The technology behind the Trinity Magnum should make it an incredibly powerful tool in bringing games to life. Unfortunately, some of that realism might be lost through the current prototype design, which looks a bit like a Wii Zapper and a PlayStation Move controller had a baby as opposed to resembling a gun. The other issue this campaign might run into is focusing only on backers receiving development kits: which is great news for designers, but more than the average gamer needs. Add to this that an OpenCV camera is required, and there’s something that’s a really great piece of technology, but maybe a little too rough around the edges to really sell VR equipment.