More and more household devices and appliances are becoming interconnected by the internet and wireless technology. The traditional solution for controlling this growing "Internet of Things" has been a smartphone or computer, but Los Angeles-based ivee believes it should be even simpler. It bills its Sleek as a Wi-Fi voice activated assistant for your home. With the Sleek, you're always connected, with or without a phone or computer at your side.
Consumers can now have everything from refrigerators to thermostats to door locks connected to the internet for remote access and advanced functionality. It's not hard to see the Internet of Things gaining momentum over the next few years, with many of our home appliances and devices connected to the cloud.
Ivee believes this Internet of Things should follow other internet-connected devices into the world of voice activation. The Sleek takes off where ivee's voice-activated alarm clocks leave off, bringing Siri-type functionality to your home. It keeps you in control of connected home devices, such as smart plugs, smart lights and smart locks, with simple voice commands powered by AT&T’s Speech API voice recognition. Sleek also connects you with the greater internet, letting you ask questions about the weather, stock prices and the like, receiving answers without ever grabbing for your phone or typing a single letter into your computer keyboard.
The Sleek can also help with a variety of daily tasks. It can remind you of meetings, set an alarm, put you to sleep with soothing sounds and bedtime stories, and play its integrated radio. All of these functions can be accessed via voice. The company promises that Sleek will update and improve over time, and it plans to add apps for things like internet radio, scheduling and movie times. Ivee has also opened up its voice platform to developers.
Under its bright, glossy 4.3-inch TFT LCD display, Sleek packs an ARM9 400 MHz processor, 128 MB of memory, 256 MB of Flash storage and embedded Linux software. It connects to a home network via 802.11b/g and communicates with a combination of a 45 mm speaker and dual beam-forming microphones that have a listening range of about 10 to 15 ft (3 to 4.6 m), so while it will work in a single room or small floor of your home, a single unit won't work throughout the entire house.
Light and temperature sensors allow it to provide feedback about its surroundings, while a built-in rechargeable battery pack backs up the AC adapter in case of power loss.
On its surface, the Sleek is a cool device that better integrates connected homes, but it's hard not to view it as a bit redundant in a world where people carry smartphones and tablet computers all around the house and beyond. The Sleek is slightly more convenient than using a phone when you're in range, but stray farther than 15 ft and you'll just be using your smartphone as a remote control and internet access point, anyway.
Though they didn't include all the home automation and voice control features of the Sleek, other home-anchored internet hubs like the Sony Dash failed to make much of a splash. Only time will tell if the Sleek offers enough innovation to succeed where others have failed.
However, ivee has already exceeded its US$40,000 goal by more than US$10,000, proving that there is some interest in a voice activated home assistant. The $149 pledge units are all sold out, but you can still reserve your Sleek for a $179 pledge, $20 lower than the retail price. Ivee hopes to get units shipping by October.