Another day, another Kickstarter project. This one actually looks like it could have potential, though. Ubi is an Android-powered speaker system that connects to your local WiFi network. The small black box plugs into a power outlet and is controlled primarily via voice. It comes equipped with colored LEDs for notifications, and an array of sensors including temperature, humidity, air pressure, and ambient light. To round out the specs, the box packs a full-size USB port and a 3.5mm audio jack. Couple all that with an open development platform and the potential is nigh on limitless.
The device appears to be built largely around Google's voice actions and search. It's unclear just how well it could integrate with things like Google Now, though. Would it be able to let you know how long you have to get to your next appointment, for example? Hard to say. It may also be too early to ask. The development still seems to be in the beginning stages, and it's not obvious just how much the Ubi team hopes third-party developers will pick up the slack.
The observant among you will notice a lot of hesitant language in this article, and for good reason. The demo video shows exactly two examples of voice actions in use. Convincing users to spend $150 or more on a device so they can ask how many ounces are in a cup could be a hard sell, so the success of this device will depend largely on what else it could do.
The list of apps the team hopes to launch the Ubi with is impressive, if they can deliver. Functions include a baby monitor, climate control (coupled with a device like the Nest), and even a speakerphone. It's unclear just how this thing would make phone calls. Would it be via Google Talk's voice chat, Skype, or some other VoIP service? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before we could say this little black box would be successful.
Still, voice control is a growing trend. As software for interpreting natural language commands gets smarter, it nears inevitability that a device like this will do well in the market in some form or another. Whether this is the one or if we'll have to wait a bit longer before our houses start answering questions for us is up to the devs and Kickstarter supporters now.