What it does
aircubus solves a simple problem. Imagine, some sort of activity happens on the web. Like someone clicking on a link you posted on Facebook, a person visiting your website, purchases from your store, receiving a Twitter message or pretty much any other event supported by our platform. As soon as that happens, we are sending a signal to your aircubus light and it will glow, strobe or simply light up in the color and mode you configured for this type of event. It's that simple – and it's addictive. You can place the light anywhere in your room, either connect it to your computer and use our PC/Mac software to trigger events, or use the base station to signal the aircubus light anywhere in your apartment, wirelessly. (Nerd alert: It even works with the Raspberry Pi out of the box!)
The aircubus light is designed to run on batteries or (preferably) a power adapter or even through USB, you can use a single light cube, or as many as you like (we don't know the limits yet, but less than 30 should be fine for sure). And yes, if you have a Raspberry Pi, it can power the light, all by itself.
How did you come up with the idea?
The idea came about as I was working on a new website that started to receive a sudden spike in interest globally. I didn't have a nice way, other than plain old e-mail messages, to notify me of new purchases, or heavy visitor traffic or whether people were clicking on the links I was sending out through Twitter. I wrote some software to light up a simple led on my desk, for any of those events. This quickly evolved into RGB leds, for different events and once I combined it with a milk-tainted glass bowl, it became a solid product prototype that I have been using daily now.
Why is it called aircubus, when it looks like a ball rather than a cube?
The spherical lamp form was widely available when we were looking around for prototyping material. So it might end up be more of a glass bowl rather than a cube. Maybe we'll release the product in various shapes (and sizes, like a small cube, or a large glass ball like we demonstrate in our video). This really comes down to design/supply decisions, where we can get the best looking shapes for a great price and through a trustworthy partnership. If you have ideas/sources, we'll love to hear them. The final shape will be decided further down the line, it does not impact the electronics of the product.
What's the progress and what's going to happen next?
For recent progress updates, please refer to the project updates on the register tab above. But for now: We have a fully working prototype, tested in connection with a PC, a Mac, a Raspberry Pi and running all by itself with our separate base station (also working prototype). We currently run a web-service called UserBing, where we've been testing web-notifications for the past year, delivering those to anyone's iPhone at no cost, with minimum delays. We've learned a lot doing this, most importantly that your iPhone is already being loaded with a lot of notifications and sometimes it would be a lot nicer to have certain notifications on your work desk, not in your pocket. So we played around using a lamp. Lamps require a lot of power (old ones at least) and, well, are just boring lamps. So we got rid of the light bulbs, went scouting around for nice containers (milk-glas bowls and boxes work best in distributing the light evenly on its surface) and put together a few prototypes. We powered those using Arduino boards as prototyping components and plan on replacing them with a minimum circuit to reduce cost.
What happens with the funding?
Funding is required to finance the production of the first batch. Most components are expensive at low quantities, especially up until the first 1,000 units. A single prototype board costs around $40-80 based on where you order it, multiple quantities are cheaper. Currently, we run everything off a hand-soldered, hand-designed circuit, which is in the process of being transformed into a solid PCB board that can be handed off to mass manufacturing. Once we know the board works as well as our prototype and is electronically tested, we are going to select a suitable contractor to manufacture our first batch of 500 to 1.000 pieces. A certain minimum level of stock is required to attract larger distributors. We are expecting about a $20-$30 maximum production cost for a single unit (aircubus only) for the first 1,000 units. We are already scouting different distributors for more affordable components to find an ideal fit between quality and pricing, but as anywhere, the first smaller batch will remain an expensive one and we don't expect to profit on it.
What happens once the first batch ships out?
As soon as we confirm enough orders for selling the first batch confidently, we will be able to re-negotiate our rates with our vendors and hopefully lower prices enough to sustain a fair profit per unit.
There are plans for many improvements, all of which are rather easy to incorporate through firmware changes and changes on our notification system. Other changes involving upgrades to the hardware will be reflected in the next product iteration, which we would love to see happening.
What type of notification triggers are supported?
This is the best part. We're starting easy with simple web-triggers you can embed on your website, shop, blog. Basically, anywhere you have access to add some HTML code. This is the same practice as embedded a visitor counter on a website, an analytics tracker or all of those tools. This works already and our tools are responding to this event reliably. We are also offering a simple, free HTTP REST API to implement your own triggers, or use third-party services willing to implement their events with our triggers.
We are currently investigating the use of services like ITTT, wappwolf and other online automators since they target a mass-consumer market, are well maintained and can easily trigger a simple aircubus event. Whether it's a photo upload to your Instagram, an SMS you send or receive or many other types of events. We don't need to change the hardware to add more triggers. This is all software based and will improve with every release.
Designer and Product Developer