Tuesday 10 December 2013

All Things Ninja!

Many of you have by now have heard of Ninja Blocks, but for those of you that have not - it is basically a small form-factor plug-and-play modular computer designed to communicate with other Ninja Blocks, sensors and connected devices in order to produce a smarter, personalised environment.

Reminiscient of smart-home automationZ-Wave and X-10 devices of old, Ninja Blocks are built on true open standards of open-hardware and open source. At it's core, the Ninja Platform is comprised on trusted open components like Arduino, BeagleBoneRaspbery Pi and their very own Pi Crust.

Ok, but what is it good for? Ninja Blocks, just as X-10 did, allow you to interact with your environment programmatically - be it office or home. The programming aspect is flexible in that you can use their Ninja Rules App to make your life easier such as turn on the lights automatically when you enter a room by way of a light sensor, or get an alert on your phone when the washing is done. But that's not all - say that you want to sit down and watch a movie and you don't want the light turning on every time you move throughout the movie - you can adjust the sensitivity of the sensor to ignore slight movements, or you could create another rule that requires you to clap twice to keep the light off, or even speak a voice command 'Lights, stay off for 2 hours!' - the possibilities are endless and limited only by your imagination.

Apart from the obvious gimicky tricks you can cook up around your house in minutes, the use is not only limited to the ingeniuously lazy of us, but also less-abled people as well, increasing their quality of life considerably. Can't get to the door in time? Have the door bell notify you on your mobile phone, or notify you on your smart watch - wherever you are! But what about the sustainability advantages like controlling lighting, air conditioning, powering off devices when not in use?

If you find their Ninja Rules App is not powerful enough, or if you are in touch with your inner techie, you can also interface with their amazing API with your favourite programming language, and write your own apps. Or if you are simply too lazy just control it all with your mobile phone.

Ninja Blocks already interfaces with a wide range of devices, and you can add support for any new devices since it is an open source project and fully customisable. There are many interesting examples of controlling your CTV (Connected TV), whitegoods or vacuum cleaner like Roomba, lighting via smart light-bulbs, smart-watches like the Pebble or Samsung Galaxy Gear, and even interacting with your pets or kids with BLE tags like StickNFind

If you want to find out more about Ninja Blocks,  Lifehacker wrote quite a good article about it last month, that is quite in-depth and includes screenshots - I highly recommend it.

But all this is good and dandy for those that don't know what Ninja Blocks are. The real news that has us all very excited is that Ninja Blocks has launched a kickstarter project for their latest invention - the Ninja Sphere! This gadget promises to be a hub of sorts of all your interconnected Ninja Blocks devices, as well as common devices - through a very intuitive gesture-based UI and a very, very sexy looking device.

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