Do You Believe in Magic?

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clark

child reading harry potter and holding wand pic

Working in the IoT industry and being a technology enthusiast, I am always playing with the latest IoT gadgets. While many of these devices have beautiful apps, I’m starting to feel like the IoT industry is not living up to Arthur C. Clark’s third law — making technologies so advanced they seem like magic. Unlocking my phone, opening the app and then choosing the command just doesn’t delight me in terms of user experience. To stimulate the thinking in our industry and inspire some would-be entrepreneur, I put forth a new interface for home control that is intuitive, technologically feasible today, and delightfully close to magic.

First, I am a big fan of voice recognition and was the first kid on my block to get an Amazon Echo when it came out. After having lived with it for a considerable time, I can say that I still love it. It makes me feel like I am in a Star Trek episode asking the computer to give me some piece of information. If you haven’t played with one yet, I highly recommend it. The microphone array is fantastic at distinguishing commands through a great deal of background noise and from any direction.

Second, Amazon has opened up the Echo interface to third-party developers, and there are an increasingly large number of devices and services that Echo can tap into. In fact, Amazon might even fund your development through the Alexa Fund.

Unfortunately, voice commands only get you so far, as you have to remember more and more commands, and most importantly, you have to distinguish one light in one room from another on the other side of the house. My proposed solution is to utilize a little demo board our friends at ST Microelectronics showed us at CES. This tiny cube integrates a variety of accelerometers and gyroscopes to identify the device’s orientation, direction, speed of travel, and even the distance from your phone.

So here is the idea:

We embed the ST Microelectronics device is a small wooden stick (a wand). Users can wave their wands (potentially pointing at the lamp to turn on) while uttering the desire command (or incantation) to operate the device in the desired fashion. For example, the kids want to be let in the back door, which is currently locked. You wave your wand in the direction of the back door and utter Alohomora (the spell to unlock doors from Harry Potter). Need to turn on a light? Try Lumos. Operating your drone, try Winggardium Leviosa (and be sure you are saying it right).

All the technologies are available to implement this concept today. Don’t we all want to control the world with a flick of our wand and a few magic words? Let’s face it, the future cheated us out of the jet packs that we were supposed to have by now, the least we deserve is a magic wand.