Always-on Android voice-controlled Ubi starts pre-orders

Nov 04, 2012 by Nancy Owano report

(—The Toronto-based company Unified Computer Intelligence Corporation has announced that its Ubi is now available for pre-order. Ubi, a Kickstarter project, was named to serve as a shorthand reminder of ubiquitous computing. The Ubi is a plug-in device with speakers, a microphone, and multicolored LED indicator lights. You plug it into a wall outlet, connecting it to your home's WiFi, and the Ubi becomes an always-on, hands free, computer device that stays dormant until you say "Ubi." The word Ubi wakes it up to receive a verbal command or question ("How many teaspoons in an ounce?").

The company's three-engineer team, Amin Abdossalami, Mahyar Fotoohi, and Leor Greble, promote their as always listening, always ready to help, as it will either talk back to you with the you seek, or will relay information through its lights. Commenting on the stage of voice recognition for Internet search, they said that they did not believe a project such as the Ubi would have been possible a year ago, but "we're confident that we're now at a point where we can use existing services for speech recognition."

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As for the range of the microphone, their tests showed that it can pick up regular-volume voices from 15 feet away. As for , the Ubi in normal mode will draw less than 3 W. When fully functioning and with LEDs at full power, the level may go up to 10 W. The team said the Ubi is packed with sensors—temperature, humidity, and ambient —that can provide feedback information for various rooms in a home.

With an , the Ubi is based on Android. and carries 1 GB RAM. The company launched Ubi as a Kickstarter project this summer, and they raised $229,594 with 1,190 backers.

They now have announced that Ubi is on pre-order at $219 per device, available in April next year. A ten-pack is $1399. When the Ubi becomes available for shipment, the price per Ubi will be $269.

They see the device as going over well with users in larger-size residences where information from the Ubi about rooms—such as baby monitoring, or managing thermostats—would be useful. They also said they see "huge potential" for Ubi as an assistive device for people with physical impairments who, for example, may have limited mobility or vision.

The Ubi team also has a message for developers. The Ubi, on an open-platform, can be tapped into. Unified Computer Intelligence intends to release an SDK "with hooks into all the functionalities of the Ubi."

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User comments : 9

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1 / 5 (2) Nov 04, 2012
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1 / 5 (1) Nov 04, 2012
Not bad, but at 269$ I would have done it thru an inexpensive 150$ pad as a playbook, plug a usb humidity, temp sensor, programmed software from there. They (Pad) have wifi, speaker, 10 hours batteries, touch screen, camera and much more.

I think that they would of save a lot of development $ in this project.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 04, 2012
agree with sly, cool concept but locking a device to an outlet in this smartphone-centric age is a step in the wrong direction.. perhaps siris got this functionality covered
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 05, 2012
Going off the path a bit with a conspiracy theorist view... You have a device that the government can get a search warrant (or not), to listen in on. A low impedance microphone that is effective at picking up most all noises and conversations.
not rated yet Nov 05, 2012
You have a device that the government can get a search warrant (or not), to listen in on.

From what I read in the article, the device runs on an "open plateform". Assuming this means free, or at least open-source software, then there can not be any backdoor you can't just remove.
1 / 5 (2) Nov 05, 2012
Strange question: "How many teaspoons in an ounce?" - teaspoons are a measure of volume, ounces of weight. Can it answer "How many oranges equal an apple?"
5 / 5 (1) Nov 05, 2012
Strange question: "How many teaspoons in an ounce?" - teaspoons are a measure of volume, ounces of weight. Can it answer "How many oranges equal an apple?"

Unlike you, UBI knows that, in this context, "ounce" refers to fluid ounce - a unit of volume.
1 / 5 (3) Nov 05, 2012
Why would Ubi have to be safety certified?
1 / 5 (1) Nov 05, 2012
This thing sounds too over-designed and costly to become ubiquitous. At $50, it would sell like hotcakes, but to get there you'd need to sacrifice some functionality. For instance, all those sensors and their integration add a lot to the cost. Considering the form factor and where these things are to be located, sensor data will have pretty limited utility, IMO. Sensing air temp from near the floor is not a very good idea. Light sensors located on the wall outlets will get blocked by furniture. Humidity sensors will be confused by things like plants, hot water, and steam. A slightly less ambitious design could retain the cool Majel Barrett interactivity with plenty of utility, and be a lot cheaper to manufacture.

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