Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Japanese technology company Mui Lab has created a smart home hub like no other. From a distance, the Mui looks like a simple block of wood. Up close, however, one can see that Mui Lab’s invention is a “smart plank” capable of connecting to the internet and functioning just like any other Google Home or Amazon Echo.
In a world where technology often comes as a distraction, the Mui was created for people to have a “healthier relationship” with their smart devices, according to BBC. The wooden plank can be easily integrated into a home as an aesthetic piece of furniture hung on the wall. It is designed to quietly do its job–displaying the weather, controlling the lights and temperature, and displaying Spotify music playback–and nothing more.
The Mui even listens to users’ voice commands, but it won’t talk back. The plank has a built-in Google Assistant activated by pressing a button on the wood. While the Mui lacks speakers and therefore cannot respond verbally like Alexa or Siri, it will display its written response character-by-character on the LCD display. The screen can also be tapped to show the entire message at once.
According to the Mui’s campaign description on Kickstarter, the device’s LED display only appears with a swipe of the user’s hand and will disappear when the user is done. Other functions include sending and receiving messages and checking the news.
— Prabhu Ram (@prabhu_ram) January 7, 2019
“Mui is a ‘calm’ device designed to create a relaxing, distraction-free digital environment, so you can enjoy quality time with your family,” the description reads.
Mui Labs raised over $110,000 through Kickstarter in December 2017. To build production funds, the company will also launch an Indiegogo InDemand campaign this week. The device will be available to backers for $549 through Indiegogo InDemand, but will likely jump to $999 after the campaign, the Verge reported.
The company received a CES Innovation Award this year for the creative invention.
Mui Labs co-founder and CEO Kaz Oki explained the need for a “calmer” device, according to Medium.
“Technology is convenient, but it forces us to make new habits — to isolate ourselves with our phones or to say, ‘OK Google,’ or, ‘Alexa!’ to turn on smart home assistants — that are not really our traditional human behavior,” Oki said.
Oki continued on to say that, while a phone encourages attention from one individual, the Mui is open to the whole family.
“In my house, if my wife interacts with mui, I can see what she’s doing. If I do something with mui, she can see what’s going on,” he said. “It makes it easier for us to share our home and our time as a family. We want to make a smart home device that will help you turn off your phones when you get home.”