A new project is seeking cash on the Kickstar crowd-funding site to build an always on, voice-controlled embedded computer designed for use around the home.
The iPhone's Siri digital assistant has popularised the idea of voice recognition for embedded devices, and the Ubi — short for ubiquitous computer — is intended to offer access to similar technology, sans the iPhone's mobility but with more options for hooking into home automation systems.
The Ubi is a tiny (around 10x10cm) Android computer designed to plug straight into a power point and be left on.
Offering voice recognition, Wi-Fi connectivity and a suite of built-in sensors, uses for the Ubi range from Siri-style personal assistant for calendar management and memos, to conducting voice-driven internet searches, home monitoring and climate control when paired with an internet-connected thermostat system.
One of the possible uses, the creators say, is assisting visually or hearing impaired people or those with limited mobility.
Ubi has built-in temperature, humidity, air pressure and ambient light sensors, as well as multi-coloured indicator lights, speakers and an omnidirectional mic for picking up sound. The project's creators have promised an open platform to allow developers to build applications for the computer.
The Ubi runs version 4.1 ('Jellybean') of Google's Android platform and has an 800MHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor and 1GB of RAM. The device also has built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 support and a USB port. At the moment the Ubi is designed to work with North American power points and the only language it will initially support is English, but the intention is to expand regional support.
The Ubi's creators say they have been working on the device for 10 months and have built a working prototype. The Kickstarter project launched on 13 August and has a deadline of 18 September, with the goal of raising $36,000. The funding is intended to help with getting regulatory approval for the device and get the first production run ready, as well as complete apps to ship with the Ubi.