We are able to control our environment with less and less effort. Some might argue that people are becoming increasingly lazy, but many just enjoy the convenience. Despite the plethora of “smart” devices available to us, however, difference in manufacturers means it is difficult to control them all from one phone or tablet. Dutch-founded Athom‘s Homey project, fresh off of a successful Kickstarter campaign, looks to change that with a orb that they are promoting as the voice-activated hub that will enable you to control your home. The company set 100K Euro as their goal, but managed to more than double it, taking home 203K Euro from 996 backers.
The team behind Homey is certainly not lacking in ambition when it comes to the features that they seek to offer in the device. Using WiFi, Bluetooth, a powerful infrared LED, and NFC, the proposed device will allow users to control the temperature, the television, music, refrigerator, and more. They offer an app for iOS and Android-supported phones for when you are away from home.
But the most interesting feature, as co-founder Stefan Witkamp demonstrates in this video, is that the device allows users to control by voice and therefore avoid having to even go through the motions of managing your tech through your phone. Users do not need to worry about speaking English, either, as the device can also be operated by commands in Dutch, Spanish, French, and German. In addition to the device, Homey aims to create their own little app ecosystem. They will sell the unit, but they are hoping that developers will take the next step and develop apps that will add functionality and unlock its full potential.
The orb-like design of device reminds me of the Nexus Q, a device rolled out by Google back in 2012 that was supposed to become a hub for your living room and would allow users to play music and other content. However, that is basically where the similarities basically end. Unlike the former device which would act as a multimedia player, the Homey wants to basically control all your technological devices and do it all from the couch solely with your voice. The Nexus Q, which was originally offered for $330, is no longer for sale and is considered a rare major flop for Google, so it will be interesting to see if the Homey ultimately fares better.
Witkamp tells me that the idea to create this device came from Emile Nijssen, who built a prototype of the device. Initially, Nijssen did not even intend to create a product for retail, but simply built a similar device to make his own life at home more simple. But, he received a lot of interest from friends about obtaining their own device, so he decided that it would be worthwhile to create a business out of it.
According to the company’s Kickstarter page, they intended to begin manufacturing the product now and ship to backers next March. However, Witkamp tells me that they are launching a page for pre-orders on Monday and the latest update to their campaign page states that the item may go on sale in the United States “very soon.” No word yet on the retail price, but they indicate that backers who gave 179 Euro ($236) would get one for almost half of the final price.