Ubi is the voice of the internet.

UBI3It’s like something right out of Star Trek – being able to talk to our computers and phones and having tasks done for us. Personal Voice Assistants (PVA) have been a part of popular culture since 2010 when Siri became a household name through iOS devices. And, while Siri wasn’t the first PVA in the market, it certainly ended up making a pop culture smash. Fortunately, PVA development hasn’t stopped with what we can hold in our hands. Product engineers have developed a wonderful new piece of technology called Ubi by Unified Computer Intelligence Corporation (UCIC).

Ubi, short for “ubiquitous computer,” is a WiFi connected, voice operated computer that allows for hands-free interaction with many home automated products that are already in your house. I’ve been very interested in testing Ubi since I first saw it on Kickstarter almost 2 years ago. Since that time, it’s gone through hundreds of hardwares design changes and dozens of software updates. Ubi is a learning computer and gets smarter over time. The more you talk to it and request that it complete tasks for you, the more it is able to understand you. Ubi’s founders believe that interaction with technology should be seamless and easy. This made them want to create a computer that would chime in when needed and then fade away when not needed.

Ubi illuminates in blue light when it's woken up.

Ubi illuminates in blue light when it’s woken up.

Ubi looks like a small square speaker, but looks can be deceiving. Its stylish exterior is hiding an always-on computer with 4GB of RAM and processing power that puts a lot of other computers to shame. Ubi runs on a customized ROM of Android to that it can run without a screen. Ubi receives software updates automatically and Ubi developers are constantly pushing out new updates to prevent any security flaws that may occur. In addition to pushing its own updates, UCIC is also working on an API for third party developers. This would mean additional functionality for users and a wider range of options for Ubi.

Ubi’s hardware includes two microphones, lights sensors, speakers and WiFi and Bluetooth technologies. So, aside from the awesome hardware, what makes Ubi so special? It’s the ability to ask Ubi anything hands-free and get answers delivered quickly AND control your home automated devices. Because of how it’s constructed, should a flaw occur with the hardware, UCIC will replace the unit. When asked if a user could replace parts, the CEO, Leor Grebler, told us that while that might be possible, it’s their policy to replace the unit.

Ubi illuminates with green light when it's listening.

Ubi illuminates with green light when it’s listening.

One of the things I like so much about Personal Voice Assistants is being able to get answers to questions from anywhere. Ubi does the same. It will not only set up calendar appointments for you or help you send text messages, but it will also answer questions for you like, “Who was the first president of the United States?” Ubi also allows you to control your home automated devices as previously mentioned. Some of the services and products that Ubi is already working with include Nest, IFTTT, Smart Things, Hootsuite, Twitter and Evernote. It’s speed and accuracy are dependent on two main factors – background noise and distance from router. Ubi’s CEO informed us that the farther away from the router an Ubi unit is, the slower its response will be. Their goal is to return an answer with Ubi within about 2 seconds of the query. Distance from router can prevent that. The other factor about how well Ubi ‘hears’ you is background noise. If there is a quiet room and you are 8 feet or less away from the Ubi unit, you should have no problems having a response returned. If there is a TV playing in the background or you don’t have a straight line of communication available with Ubi, it may return an answer that doesn’t make much sense because it isn’t hearing you correctly.

In order to set up Ubi, you have to log into the Ubi Portal, which is a web interface. UCIC is very focused on cloud integration and web-based solutions for set-up of Ubi. Currently there is a mobile app that allows users to interact with Ubi remotely, but this is really for Ubi to know things about when you are coming home. Ubi is always ‘sleeping’ unless it hears ‘Ok Ubi’ from you. This is also a security provision since Ubi can be accessed with the aid of a remote mobile app. Currently, the app is only available for Android, but Ubi’s CEO told us that they are working on an iOS version. One of the very cool features of the Ubi Portal is the availability of Utterance. This allows you to view all the phrases that Ubi has heard. I find this an interesting feature because it makes it possible to see how you can communicate better with Ubi by speaking clearer.

UBI4So what is my impression of Ubi? It’s a cool piece of technology that is a welcome addition to my home. It recognizes my voice and with a gentle, “Ok, Ubi,” announcement, Ubi has controlled my Phillips Hue bulbs and Nest Thermostat. It has told me the time and temperature and been programmed to give me a weather report at 9AM every day. Has it been 100% accurate 100% of the time? No, but it does seem to get better the more I use it. I am very much looking forward to future software updates that help Ubi evolve.

For more information on Ubi, visit theubi.com.