Connected Objects

OrbMi uses a voice messaging app to reinvent the answering machine

As smartphones have continued to eat into the sales of landlines, voice mail has become the main way that voice messages are retrieved from phones. But once upon a time, the answering machine was a physical device, one that used cassettes just as the tape-based Walkman laid the foundation for the flash memory-based iPod nano.

The team behind OrbMi wants to recreate the experience of listening to voice messages that arrive without remote notification on one’s own schedule with a glowing half-sphere. Like the answering machines of yore, it must be plugged in. But unlike those devices, it doesn’t have to be anywhere near a phone or phone line. That’s because messages are sent to the Wi-Fi device over the Internet using a companion app.