The Ubi is an always-on voice-activated computer ready to help. Just plug it in, talk to it and it'll help you connect with your world. Read more
This project was successfully funded on September 18, 2012.
About this project
***Update: Ubi and SmartThings will work together to provide a complete voice-controlled home automation platform (checkout the Update tab above for videos). Check out SmartThings here. ***
New Video: Ubi & SmartThings
Ubi - Always on. Always ready to help.
Ubi is a voice-activated computer that plugs into a wall outlet. You talk to the Ubi and it talks back. It directly connects to the Internet through wifi.
"Look ma, no hands!"
We believe people want to do things when they're at home - they clean, they fold laundry, they cook, they eat, they spend time with loved ones. These are all things that (for the most part) take up use of our arms and hands. When we're at home, we'd rather use our limbs for other activities than typing, scrolling, or swiping.
Ubi is short for ubiquitous computer because it's always on, always listening, always ready to help. It can scribe, listen, analyze. Ubi will either talk back to you the information you seek or indicate information through multi-color lights.
Ubi listens to its environment and senses it through sound, temperature, light, pressure, and humidity. It can record this information or use it to trigger events and communication.
What can it do?
Ubi can be used for potentially hundreds of applications. The applications we plan to ship with the Ubi are:
- Voice-enabled Internet search
- Indicator light (light changing based on events, e.g. weather, stock, email)
- Home speaker system with sound piping
- Virtual assistant (audio calendar, feed reader, podcast etc)
- Voice memos
- Alarm clock
- Intercom system
- Baby monitor
- Noise pollution monitor
- Controlling the climate of your home perfectly (through web enabled thermostats like Nest)
A Helping Hand
We see a huge potential for Ubi to assist those who have visual, hearing, or mobility impairments. With its indicator lights and talk-to-activate functionality, Ubi is super simple to setup and use. We want the Ubi to make it easier for our parents and loved ones to stay connected with us and the world.
Your Kickstarter Contribution
We're serious about making this technology of our dreams easily available to everyone. Your Kickstarter contribution is going to allow us to get safety approval (FCC and CE) so that it can be used everywhere. It will also help driving down the cost of making the Ubi so that everyone can afford at least one. In a nutshell, your contribution will:
- Allow us to meet regulatory approval
- Get our first production run in place (tooling, machining, and chip printing - we are working with local firms who are very talented)
- Allow us to complete the initial apps we're going to deliver with the Ubi
Each Ubi reward above the $1 level comes with one Ubi unit that has wifi and a slew of other functionality. It also includes the Ubi web, iPhone and Android app and access to the Ubi portal to monitor and setup the Ubi remotely. You'll also get early access to the API.
Ubi is available in arctic white or midnight black. Please specify which is your preference when you back the project.
- $1 - Access to backer-only updates and early offers when product is launched
- $149 - Early backers - 1 Ubi (limited to first 100)
- $189 - Single Ubi
- $349 - Two Ubis
- $479 - Three-pack of Ubis
- $649 - Five-pack of Ubis
- NEW! - $1249 - The Inner Sanctum - The Ubi 10-pack and much more
How it works
Ubi plugs into a wall outlet and accesses the Internet through a wifi connection. It has a microphone and speakers and listens for commands. Saying "Ubi" wakes up the Ubi for receiving verbal commands. You can then instruct the Ubi to do your bidding. Ubi will receive plain language commands. Ubi communicates back to you through speech or by using lights.
- Air pressure
- Ambient light
This data can be stored online or used to trigger alerts to your mobile device or email.
The Ubi runs Android with a powerful processor to perform voice recognition and also has the ability to connect to other devices. You can plug in speakers, USB drives, or connect through Bluetooth directly to your iPhone or Android device. For developers, you can also communicate with potentially thousands of devices (through RF, wifi, or Bluetooth) and we're making the device open so peripherals and other applications can be used with it.
Technical Specs on the Ubi
- Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
- 800 MHz ARM Cortex-A8 Processor
- 1 GB RAM
- 802.11 b/n/g Wifi Enabled (WEP, WPA, and WPA2 encryption)
- Hi fidelity speakers and omni-directional microphone
- USB 2.0 with 5 V power supply
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Temperature, humidity, and air pressure sensors
- Ambient light sensor
- RF Transceiver Module
- Plugs into a standard NA 110 V, 15A power outlet (world versions to be forth-coming) UPDATE: NA two-prong plug, but 100-240 VAC, 50-60 Hz support! UPDATE #2: worldwide plug support available!
- Dimensions (approximate): 4.0" x 4.0" x 1.1"
Where We're At
We've been working for over ten months on the concept, design, and prototyping of the Ubi and we're now at a point where we're ready to bring it to the Kickstarter community. We've also built an early working prototype and have been refining the design to make it more compact and easier to use. We've been in contact with manufacturers and suppliers and have spec'ed out the costs for bringing the Ubi to market. Ubi is currently slated to work in English with North American voltages. We hope to expand this to other regions and languages.
We're working with local and overseas suppliers for sourcing the Ubi's electronics and plan on completing the machining, assembly, testing and certification of the Ubi in the Toronto area. We've also worked with certification authorities for pricing of safety and communication testing of the Ubi and inspection will be completed at the final point of assembly.
Our team is experienced in working on dozens of projects for engineering research institutions. All of our team members have engineering backgrounds and have delivered on real engineering projects in the past.
Sample Data from the Ubi
Below is an example of some of the data that will be available from the Ubi as it monitors different aspects of its surrounding environment. The Ubi can constantly monitor your home to provide triggers or feedback.
Special Thanks and More
Thanks to all of our backers for helping us get this exciting project off the ground! We'd also like to thank the other Kickstarter projects that have inspired us like Twine, tōd and Pebble.
A HUGE thanks goes to our extremely talented friend, Joe Sarafian, of RapidParts.ca for his help in creating our Ubi prototype.
UPDATE: We now support 100-240 VAC and 50-60 Hz! You'll need an adapter from North American two-prong plug but you won't need a voltage converter.
Although we posted that the Ubi will work right now with 110 V, the interest we’ve received has led us to vigorously investigate worldwide voltage support for the Ubi. We hope to have some good news soon so stay posted!
The Ubi will tie into many of the capabilities of Android for voice search and text to speech / speech to text. However, we’ll be adding quite a number of capabilities that will be required to use Android without any visual feedback or touch input. This means automatically switching between applications and driving events through voice input. It also means outputting through speech.
The Ubi is being designed to allow for later versions of Android to be automatically downloaded and installed. We’re working to ensure minimal disruption and physical input required to do this.
Our current version of the Ubi supports English only. We plan on making other languages supported as Android is updated to support non-English voice input.
Can I change Ubi’s wake up command from “Ubi” to some other name like “sweetheart”, “Computer”, or “Hal”? Can I change how Ubi addresses me?
No promises yet but we’ll keep it in mind. This would be a cool feature to have.
While we’re not planning on shipping Ubi with this functionality, the capability to connect to other Android or wifi devices is built in to the Ubi.
The Ubi will come with Bluetooth 4.0. While we don’t plan on having this feature available yet, we will be supplying an SDK that will give developers the ability to build apps that can do this.
Kickstarter backers are helping us get CE approval for the Ubi. This certification should give confidence for the Ubi to be used safely. We are planning on having surge protection / isolation built-in to the internal power supply. In short, yes!
The Ubi comes with its own app that wraps around the functionality of Android and ensures that it can be used without a screen or touch input (it’s handsfree, after all). We’re working to include Skype as an app that’s pre-loaded onto the device. We envision many Android apps specifically designed for screen free / handsfree input being developed and downloaded to the Ubi. These would need to be loaded onto the Ubi remotely through terminal access or through the Ubi app on another phone / computer.
We love IFTTT. We’re hoping to include the Ubi in the IFTTT recipes. Barring that, we’re developing a web portal that will have similar plugs and an API for connected to other software.
No service contracts needed! The Ubi uses your own wireless Internet connection to go online. To call phones either in North America or overseas, you may require a Skype or Google Voice account.
Since something that’s always listening can evoke a lot of privacy concerns, we’re making sure that we provide a lot of choice to enable or disable different features on the Ubi.
Ubi uses voice search in a similar manner to how Android devices and iPhones use voice search. While we plan on having the voice processed locally on the Ubi, some voice searches may go through Google servers to be processed for searches, similar to how Android phones function. This data is encrypted.
The Ubi can always be muted and the microphone disabled through voice commands or with the button on the front of the device. While the Ubi is always listening, it’s really listening for it’s name before it starts a search or activity. Saying “Ubi” alerts it to an upcoming command, like searching the Internet, making a call, etc.
Otherwise, unless the Ubi is setup to stream sound, the Ubi will not record actual sounds. However, the Ubi will stream sound level data (dB level). This information, along with temperature, humidity, and ambient light is encrypted and sent to a web portal we’re developing. It is possible to disable this feature or to stream this data to a different server, to Google Drive, or some other service. This information will not be shared with other sources and we do not plan on requiring a subscription for our Kickstarter backers to access the portal.
We don’t believe a project like the Ubi would have been possible only a year ago but we’re confident that we’re now at a point where we can use existing services for speech recognition. Some examples of Google voice recognition in noisy environments can be seen here:
We also believe that this technology is now improving at a fast enough pace to make using the Ubi a better and better experience once it’s released: http://www.youtube.com/watch…
Internet search, speakerphone (through Skype and Google Talk), indicator / event light, home speaker system, virtual assistant, alarm clock, intercom, room monitor, and sensor monitor. Coupling all these together will be an app that turns what would normally be displayed in text and graphics into voice. The Ubi will also handle downloading updates and apps from Google Play.
What is the range of the microphone? How far away can I stand from the Ubi and still be able to use it?
Our prototype’s microphone sensitivity is -40 dBV/Pa ±3 dB. In our tests, it could pick up regular volume voices from 15 ft away.
Smart phones, tablets, and the Ubi complement each other. There are, however, some fundamental differences in the capabilities and applications of the Ubi compared to other devices. Ubi is always on, always ready, always listening to its environment (unless you want it to close its ears). Phones and tablets need charging and require your hands to use. Ubi is meant to be placed in a fixed location and always accessible with voice whereas our phones are sometimes not the easiest things to find when we’re home. Also, when you leave home, Ubi is still there waiting for you and monitoring the environment.
Ubi comes packed with sensors that can be used for home automation and monitoring. It also has lights that can indicate different information.
There are a few ways you can upload your contacts onto the Ubi: Sync your Ubi with your Google account. Load your Skype contacts onto the Ubi. Manually add contacts by voice or through terminal access using your iPhone/Android device or a desktop/laptop.
Yes, each Ubi comes with a one year warranty. We want to make sure whoever gets an Ubi is thrilled with it!
Ubi is an open source computer and developers can hack and explore it to their liking. It is packed with easily accessible sensors and lights. Onboard are Wifi, USB, bluetooth, and RF transceivers. And, we speak the language of open source developers, e.g. Android. You can even make your own peripherals for the Ubi or link it to other devices (we envision it connecting to Pebble, Twine, Sensordrone, and other Kickstarter projects).
We will be releasing an SDK with hooks into all the functionalities of the Ubi. More detail will be forthcoming on the SDK as our project progresses.
The current version of the Ubi does not contain a battery. We are exploring the possibility of adding a battery for back up power in the event of a power outage.
Just in case, the Ubi has a button to override certain functions: You can mute or unmute the Ubi and turn off the microphone by pressing the button once (this can be done through voice as well). The Ubi can be powered off by holding down on the button for three seconds.
Just like restarting your computer or phone, the Ubi will keep all your applications and files saved and will load them after it restarts. The restart time is approximately two minutes.
You can have as many Ubis as the number of wall outlets in your home or office. The Ubi is designed to sync with other Ubis. You can treat them all as one entity.
Ubi’s light can be programmed to have practically an infinite number of combinations of colors and patterns. It can be used as a more abstract means of communication or to relay information. Some possible applications:
Flashing orange if your baby’s room’s temperature or humidity level is over a certain threshold. Flashing yellow to remind an elderly woman to take her yellow pills. Glowing red whenever Facebook stock falls below a certain threshold. Fading from green to blue to show pleasant weather in the forecast. Blinking blue if you have a new email in your inbox.
If you’re interested in developing apps specifically for the Ubi, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simple answer – to meet the expectations we’ve set to deliver the Ubi on time. There are a limited number of Ubis we can manufacture within the estimated timeline considering our production resources.
How can I set up the Ubi for someone who’s not tech-savy (e.g. my lovely grandma)? How can I setup the Ubi?
Very simple... just plug it in. OK, a little more... There are three ways of connecting the Ubi to the Internet:
Voice: For almost all Wifi routers, you just have to power up the Ubi and say “Ubi, setup wifi”. The Ubi will ask you to select from a list of networks and then prompt you to spell the WEP code.
Smartphone: By downloading the Ubi app for iPhone or Android, you can setup the Ubi by connecting from your phone to the newly plugged-in Ubi through Bluetooth. You can then select from a list of available networks and enter any necessary passwords.
Old School Computer: From a PC or laptop, anyone can download a small file that will allow for setup and configuration of the Ubi.
All you need is wireless Internet access and an available power outlet. You can access a lot of other hardware with the Ubi through Wifi, Bluetooth, USB, and RF. You can also remotely access Ubi using your phone, tablet, PC, or laptop from anywhere in the world.
Our goal is to make Ubi affordable so that everyone can have at least one. In short... no, the Ubi can’t connect directly to your TV. We’re exploring future versions that may have this feature.
There are a few different ways:
By voice: “Ubi, what is the temperature in my child’s bedroom?” “Ubi, are the lights off in my basement?” Using your smartphone or tablet through the Ubi app.
Online: the sensor data is logged and accessible through an Internet portal from anywhere in the world.
By text/email: you can program the Ubi to text/email you based on triggers from sensor data.
You can use the USB port to connect to: mass storage devices, cameras, additional sensors, home automation products, and whatever your imagination comes up with, you sneaky developer! You can also use the USB port for powering your phone or tablet or other devices.
In normal mode, the Ubi should draw less than 3 W. When fully functioning and with the LEDs at full power, the level increases up to 10 W. We are investigating ways we can minimize power consumption while still streaming data from the Ubi.
The Ubi comes with 4 GB local storage. This is expandable through an internal microSD slot that can be accessed inside the Ubi.
Adding a memory stick / storage device will allow for files to be remotely accessible, so you upload or download files to whatever memory device is connected to the Ubi. This will be accessible initially through the iPhone / Android portal rather than through voice.
Skype and Google Talk calls will be announced with the caller ID / contact name read. You can then say, “Ubi, answer” or “Ubi, reject” to accept the call or reject it.
We’re working to ensure that Ubis will not interfere with each other. There will be some minimum distance that the Ubis will need to be kept from each other but we’re still experimenting with optimal placement.
We are working to provide a selection of voices for reading back the Ubi voices. Sadly, Samuel L. Jackson has turned us down despite our offers of unlimited free Ubis.
Yes. Sometimes you just need to see what’s happening inside. We’re working on access via wifi.
The Ubi will always attempt to read back the shortest (one sentence) response in plain English. However, in some instances, there may be multiple results for a search. In this case, the Ubi will read back clips of the first few search results. Telling the Ubi to “Read more” will read more of the text from that search result.
Once you need to look at a longer list of results, different modes of computing become better suited. For short answers, however, this method of condensing the results will provide at least some useful information when search results cannot be read off as a single sentence.
We believe some people may want to use the Ubi to stream music. While we’re endeavoring to provide create sound quality, we know there are much bigger players in the field. We hope to provide stereo sound through this jack and it will bypass and disable the Ubis internal speakers.
Yes! You can unplug the Ubi and plug it in elsewhere. You’ll be able to rename the location of the Ubi by either using the Ubi app or through the Ubi portal.
We’re working to preserve as much functionality as possible of the Ubi in the event that there’s an Internet outage. The Ubi, though, is an Internet device and requires a strong, healthy Internet connection. With a bad connection, voice quality during calls will suffer and there may be increased latency in getting the Ubi to respond or return search results.
We are working to allow for multiple Ubis to be able to work as their own network independent of an Internet connection. More on that to come...
We feel home heating and cooling has a long way to go and that our homes, especially in this respect, are really dumb. We’re loving devices like Nest that are making it possible to control heating and cooling in the home through the Internet.
The issue with most thermostats is that you have a single input - the temperature - usually found in the middle of the house or apartment. Since this is the only information used to actuate a furnace or air conditioning system, homes waste tons of energy and people end up really uncomfortable.
With more data, homes can better adapt. Having an Ubi in every room can allow for a much more detailed picture of heat flow and energy loss in the home, as you can tell how the temperature and humidity changes over time in different locations.
This information can then be used to turn a furnace on or off. With multiple Ubis, you can use the average temperature throughout the home as the feedback to a thermostat, rather than the temperature at one spot. Likewise, you can adjust the set point of the furnace or air conditioning depending on the humidity of the home.
Pledge $1 or more
Pledge $1 and get access to backer-only updates and early order access once the Ubi becomes available on the market.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $149 or more
100 backers All gone!
EARLY BETA BACKERS - For your early support, you get a tremendous deal on the Ubi. You'll get one Ubi and bragging rights of how you were one of the first to get one. FREE SHIPPING within the US or Canada, add $10 for everywhere else. Thanks for your early support!Estimated delivery:
Pledge $189 or more
531 backers Limited (269 left of 800)
SINGLE UBI - This gets you started. You'll get one Ubi. Put it in the room that you use the most in your home or office. FREE SHIPPING within the US or Canada, add $10 for everywhere else.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $349 or more
121 backers Limited (379 left of 500)
TWO UBIs - You'll get two Ubis that you can put in your two most used rooms in your home or office. FREE SHIPPING within the US or Canada, add $10 for everywhere else.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $479 or more
57 backers Limited (343 left of 400)
UBI 3 PACK - Three Ubis for your three most used rooms. FREE SHIPPING within the US or Canada, add $12 for everywhere else.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $649 or more
51 backers Limited (149 left of 200)
UBI 5 PACK - This is perfect for making your entire home intelligent. FREE SHIPPING within the US or Canada, add $17 for everywhere else.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $1,249 or more
7 backers Limited (43 left of 50)
THE INNER SANCTUM - With this reward, you'll get 10 Ubis, have first crack at the SDK before it's generally released, and get a 20 minute Skype call with us before the first delivery of the Ubi to discuss app development, partnering, or whatever your heart desires. FREE SHIPPING within the US or Canada, add $34 everywhere else.Estimated delivery:
- (36 days)