Connected Objects

Cubic ORBneXt is an artful light that provides color-coded notifications

The Premise. As great as smartphones are, the frequency with which they alert users with notifications can be extremely distracting. Setting custom notifications can single out the truly important information, but can be time-consuming to set up and can be impolite in social situations.

The Product. The ORBneXt is an updated version of the Orb art piece/single-pixel notifier created by Ambient Devices in its early days. It’s a hand-held, easy to use accessory that can sync up with any phone wirelessly and display notification information through a series of ambient colors. The ORBneXt connects to a phone and its Wi-Fi network by resting on top of the device, and then , using a blinking-light sequence similar to the one used by Quirky’s smart devices, can be programmed through its app to monitor information like weather, sports scores, stocks, and more. That information can then be tied to colors (for example, turn red when the weather’s getting warmer), so that the displaying color carries with it information that matters to its user’s life. The ORBneXt is made with a stylish Japanese glass housing, and has an easily modifiable brain in addition to its flexible IFTTT-enabled app.

The Pitch. The creative minds at Ambient Lumonics Labs show off the ORBneXt inside and out with their campaign information. The video focuses on the everyday use of the device while the photos and text cover all the technical details and stress how easy the device is to customize for any need. A second video that demos the product does a better job of selling the device’s strengths for the end user. Advanced Lumonics Labs needs $12,000 to complete a market-ready product in order to apply for certifications.

The Perks. Backers looking to score an ORBneXt can have one by August for a pledge of $79. Anyone with one of the older Ambient ORB devices can retrofit it to function as an ORBneXt for $69, with self-installation. If that’s too long to wait, a prototype of the device is available in June for $500.

The Potential. The flexibility of the ORBneXt’s internal hardware and its app belie the simplicity of the information it can display. Unfortunately, without being able to acknowledge a notification and clear it or get more precise details without unlocking the phone and looking at the app, its effectiveness is limited. The device does look sharp at home on a desk or in the office, but the amount of time it saves is measured in small bursts of seconds, and might not be worth it for some. Like the original Ambient ORB, the ORBneXt’s appealing form is overshadowed by its lack of function.