I’ve long been a fan of Ninja Blocks and was the proud owner of one of their first units. My enthusiasm did wane over time as they moved in a direction which didn’t leave me enthralled: They seemed to move to cater solidly for heavy-duty enthusiasts, instead of the more dilettante maker, and in doing so, for me, fell into a crack rather than found a niche. Their new venture takes them solidly in the other direction by pitching directly at consumers.
Ninja Sphere is a lovely piece of industrial design, it’s smooth jelly-fish curves are made to sit in pride of place in your living room. This is a piece of kit predicated on the idea that the Internet of Things is already here and ready to connect up wirelessly. There are no messy cables, cheap bodgy sensors or 3D-printed casings this time around. Ninja Sphere promises immediate connection with your Hue lights, your Sonos sound system and your Nest thermostat. The Ninja Sphere is positioning itself as the gesture and location-sensitive hub connecting all the disparate elements of a smart home.
Will it work? Well early indications say ‘yes’. The Kickstarter campaign was massively over-funded raising over $700,000 and they have got Worldwide positive press coverage. Every indication says that if you are willing to invest some money in making your home smart this is the way to go. The Ninja Sphere itself is available for pre-order for $329 – although you’ll need more than one if your home is long or you have multiple floors. The Sphere comes with one smart-tag which you can attach to your keys etc, but after that you’ll also need to buy additional tags and those other connected devices such as the lightbulbs or sound system. The investment could end up being substantial, but the pay-off is a home that works like something out of a science fiction movie and is controlled by a device that looks like it came direct from alien central casting.
The real test will be how this works out in the real world. Ninja Sphere is solidly aimed at consumers, albeit technically literate ones. It’s going to have to work out of the box with minimal fuss and in a way which adds real value. It will be interesting to see what happens when the first reviewers and consumers get to play with the device in earnest.
Ninja Blocks was started by a lovely bunch of people here in Sydney, although in common with most local start-ups they’ve now migrated to the West coast of the USA, and has the potential to be Australia’s real Internet of Things success story. I wish them all the best.
All the gently glowing details, pre-ordering, and so on are on the Ninja Sphere website.