We caught up with Leor Grebler, co-founder of the Unified Computer Intelligence Corporation, to discover why the startup behind the Ubi is taking its time to get the product right.
When it comes to new frontiers in the tech world, one of the major trends we’ve seen over the past year is an attempt to bring the power of the web and smartphones to traditionally non-connected objects – the so-called ‘Internet of Things‘. This is especially true for home products, with items like the Lockitron and LIFX LED light bulbs. The Ubi is another product in that category, offering smart control of home systems such as heating and lighting, as well as on-demand information from the web.
The difference between the Ubi and rival products is that it doesn’t just give consumers one more thing to do on their smartphone – by recognizing voice cues and responding with its own synthesized speech, it offers users hands-free control over their home along with its own robotic personality. Much like the HAL 9000 from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Ubi seems futuristic, which is part of the reason the device caused such a stir among backers of the startup’s Kickstarter campaign, who pledged USD 229,594 from an initial target of USD 36,000.
“Much of our success has come from striking a chord with our Kickstarter backers. People have wanted environment-based voice interaction since HAL. What we’ve done is pull together technologies that are only now coming of age and have added our own enhancements to make this type of interaction possible,” explains Leor Grebler, one of the three co-founders of the team behind the Ubi alongside Amin Abdossalami and Mahyar Fotoohi. “People have been waiting for this for a long time and we’re one of the first to provide it.”
Because of this anticipation, the team has spent the past year perfecting the Ubi, which has meant that supporters – who helped fund the device around the same time we wrote about it back in September 2012 – have yet to see the product delivered. “As a product develops, there are a lot of intricacies that reveal themselves,” Leor says, something surely every startup and entrepreneur can relate to. Rather than take short cuts to cater to the impatience of tech consumers, however, the group took the bold move of admitting that it’s estimated timeframe for shipping the product was off and backers would have to wait. “[It] was a difficult call as there’s always a lot of pressure to deliver, [but] we would rather delay shipment than ship a sub prime product.”
The Ubi has therefore spent a whole year undergoing technical tweaks and design improvements, while an entirely new app-based platform is also in the works, which will enable users to customize the way the device will work for them. The Ubi will come with a core set of apps that give it the functionalities described during the initial Kickstarter phase, but users will also be able to add new features as they become available through the startup’s own portal. “We’ll soon be releasing an API for development of the Ubi that has the potential to connect tens of thousands of Internet services and Internet-connected devices into the home and make them voice enabled,” Leor says.
Since September, the startup has struck up partnerships with dozens of likeminded companies working in the sphere of the Internet of Things with which it is partnering to bring multiple voice-enabled services into the home. It’s no doubt through these connections with the tech community and through it’s own experiences that the team now has a solid understanding of what it takes to develop an idea, improve their product and make it work on the market. While the startup is now on track to deliver the device in October 2013, it shouldn’t be the last we hear of Leor and his partners. The Ubi will be released through their company – the Unified Computer Intelligence Corporation (UCIC) – which has already grown in size and is sure to embark on more groundbreaking tech projects once the Ubi is up and running. And with a strong start, Leor’s confidence is high.
“While our estimates were off, we are really excited that our Ubis have started to come alive. We think the Ubi will be revolutionary.”
31st July 2013